“It’s sort of a Lutheran purgatory,” Roman Schatz says, describing Finland’s November 1 “National Jealousy Day. ” (NYTimes 11/2/2018 page A8)
Shortly after 8 a.m. on November 1, the central office of the Finnish tax administration publicly releasees a report of the taxable income of all its citizens. Long lines form at the tax office awaiting access to the report. The annual dump “is the starting gun for a countrywide game of who’s up and who’s down.” It’s a “fairly positive form of gossip,” states Esa Saarinen, a philosophy professor at Aalto University in Helsinki. One of the great sports of the National Jealousy Day, the article reports, is to “publicly shame tax dodgers.” In 2015, executives from several of Finland’s largest firms relocated to Portugal to receive their pensions tax free. The Finnish Parliament terminated the tax agreement with Portugal, closing the tax loophole.
“Economists in the United States,” writes Johanna Lemola, “have shown great interest in salary disclosure in recent years, in part as a way of reducing gender or racial disparities in pay.” But as Mr. Schatz writes, “Americans could never do it.”
It was common for churches in the 50’s to include in their January newsletters a list of what every member gave to the church the previous year. I know of no church today that discloses such information; most churches do report the total amount of contributions made by its members. Many non-for-profits list contributors in a category indicating the amount of their contribution.
November is stewardship month at LCM and members are being asked to be generous stewards of their time, talent and treasure. All are asked to bring to worship on November 18 their financial pledge for 2019 so a budget can be prepared and presented to the congregation in January. Churches have encouraged members to give a percentage of their income to the church.
Stewardship Sunday provides Maureen and me with the opportunity to determine our contributions for the next year. It is very freeing moment, once the amount to give has been set; we take joy in determining where our funds, over which we are stewards, not owners, will go.
I have lived in what Mr. Schatz describes as “a Lutheran purgatory,” my salary has always been disclosed at annual congregational meetings. Pastors are expected to tithe, so our financial situation is quite public. I assure you, the flames of (Lutheran) purgatory are much exaggerated. As we read in the book of Acts (20:35), “remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”