11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. -I Peter 2:11, 12 (NKJV)
The year is now half over and as we head into summer I am just beginning what I refer to as “Wedding Season.” Although I have done a few winter weddings summer is the time of year when I typically conduct more weddings than any other time. Throughout the year I will conduct a varying number of weddings and funerals, and afterward the families involved will usually give me some amount of remuneration. The amount varies, as I have no set fee and leave this entirely up to the family. I keep a careful accounting of these funds and when it comes time to file my taxes I report this to the IRS as income.
Wait a minute, you may be thinking; isn’t the money people give me for conducting a wedding or funeral considered a gift? The answer is no. According to the IRS and the tax laws of our great republic the funds I receive for such events are considered money paid for services rendered. If someone presents me with a gift, say for my birthday or Christmas, this is indeed a gift and is non-taxable. However, if I perform a service as a pastor and I am paid for said services, these funds are subject to taxation. The catch is it’s up to me to report it to the folks at the IRS.
So, what keeps me from simply not reporting the money I make from conducting weddings and funerals throughout the year? The answer is godly conscience, Christian character, and a desire to live an honorable life before God. Living lives which honor Jesus Christ is about what we do in public as well as how we live when no one is watching. Will we be honest, godly, and people of integrity only when others are watching? Let’s strive to practice such traits even when we are all alone with our consciences. God sees and knows all we do, and He brings honor and blessings to our lives when we strive for holiness and integrity in every aspect of life.
The Word of God challenges us to live such good lives among unbelievers that even though they would accuse us of doing wrong there will be no basis for their accusations. In the end they will have to admit they were wrong and we are the ones who will be vindicated. When we are faithful in all areas of life God is the One who will indeed vindicate us, and He will commend us for our honestly and character.
Jesus calls us to let His light shine from our lives. Such light shines brightest when our consciences are clear and our lives are characterized by integrity. Let us strive to honor the Lord every day all of the time.