Last week the Panama papers offered revelations about the covering up of wealth by many of the world’s richest people and biggest companies in off-shore bank accounts, or “shell companies”. These companies exist only on paper, they have no actual location or substance. Their bank accounts hold the money a real company or individual wants to hide from the taxman. These shell-companies are apparently not against the law, but hiding income and evading taxes is. Go figure…
Last week the provincial government of Alberta released a budget that forecasts a substantial deficit. Billions will have to be borrowed to pay for schools, hospitals, affordable housing, roads and bridges, etc.. Everybody is blaming the low price of oil for lost revenue. But what about the revenue that is lost because of tax evasion?
Today in church we read from the book of Revelation 7:9-17. A multitude of people in white robes is worshiping around the throne of God and the Lamb.
Robes are also called vestments. To be robed as a priest means to be “invested”. It started a train of thought for me about why these martyrs in the book of Revelation are always vested in white and what that means. If invest means to robe or cover, then divest means to disrobe or uncover. Before they were vested in white, the Christian martyrs had to divest themselves of something else: the Roman empire of the first century, the economic excess, the violence of slavery, the idolatry of wealth and power, the social and moral decay of first century Rome as described by the seer John in the visions of the four riders, the two seven headed beasts, the dragon, and the woman named “the whore of Babylon”. “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb.” Not to Rome, neither to emperor Nero, nor to Domitian, but to God and to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who died and rose again.
So what would followers of “the Lamb” and “the Good Shepherd” have to give up in order to take up the white robe? What would it mean to witness to the one who said “Give to Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s”? Should we not be thinking about divesting ourselves of funds that are parked illegally, i.e. tax free, or that are invested in businesses that deal in arms to countries such as Saudi Arabia, or harm the environment, or enslave people? Should we not care more where our benefits and pensions come from? Christians say they worship the creator God, the Good Shepherd, who provides whatever we need (Psalm 23), and the savior who announces good news to the poor (Luke 4). But sometimes I wonder how much we mean it. Better check our investments!