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The IRS

I spent the better part of last week wandering through a devious maze set up by the Internal Revenue Service.  They simply refer to it as “Form 990.”   (The level of creativity in the IRS document-titling department is remarkable.)  Form 990 is a 25-page network of perplexity to be submitted annually by non-profit organizations.  Each page seems designed for maximum bewilderment, and there are even areas that have instructions for the instructions.  It’s a bit like doing your taxes, balancing your checkbook, and taking a detailed inventory of everything you own all at once.  [Warning: this operation will take your entire dining room table hostage for the duration of at least one full week.]

Immersed in a sea of numbers for hours, I found myself second-guessing the many facets of our ministry.  I longed for an easier agenda to work through, with considerably fewer itemizations to deal with.  But suddenly the tap dance on my calculator stopped, and I gazed at the table overflowing with papers and files.  I came to the realization that every single piece of paper in front of me was actually material proof of God’s work in progress.  There were piles of orders and shipping details to total; expenses for CDs, cases, books and mailing supplies; fees for internet servers that enable our website to reach Christians around the world.   What a blessing to be a part of such an active outreach!  How sad it would be if our ministry’s annual report took only a few minutes to fill out – with no progress or potential to document.

Then another thought hit me:  what if we, as Christians, were required to submit a detailed annual report of our spiritual lives?  What would “Form 990-RR” or “Form 990-__” (insert your own initials) look like?  What contributions have we made to the Lord’s work this past year – both financially and physically?   How about our expenses?  Has our money, time, and energy been used in productive and upright ways to advance the work of the Lord?  Or would most of our expenses be filed as “for personal use only” items?  If an accountant had the task of filling out our Form 990, would it be a laborious, time-consuming job with hundreds of items to report, or would it take just a few minutes to complete?   And if the Lord were to “audit” our form, how many areas might He “red flag” because we haven’t been totally honest with ourselves, or with Him?

Romans 12:11 – Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

1 Peter 4:10 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

– Ron Reid