What will we leave for our children?
By Ross Reitz
Many people I talk to are concerned about leaving something for their children. Usually, they mean a financial inheritance. However, Jesus only taught us to pray for our daily bread. He never promised we would have wealth to leave as we pass on.
While many Americans have been fortunate enough to be able to pass an inheritance on to their children, this is likely changing. Social Security is expected to become insolvent in 2034 — just 15 years from now. Without Social Security, most of us will quickly eat up the savings we have worked to hold on to. Of course there is an easy fix for this crisis-to-be. Currently, the average person pays 6.2 percent of their take-home income in Social Security taxes. But the government says that they will only tax Social Security to a person making up to $132,900. Anyone who makes more than that amount does not have to pay an equal percentage of Social Security taxes as the rest of us.
It’s no wonder that many high-profile pastors have tried to link less taxes to the Bible. Jerry Falwell Jr. makes about $920,000 just in one position, not counting any other activities he is paid for. Between two positions, Franklin Graham made $880,000 in 2015, besides investments and any other endorsements. And while Pat Robertson’s salary is not known, if he makes the same amount (with inflation included) that he disclosed when he ran for president in the 1980s, he makes around $700,000 plus any endorsements or other compensation. So, if just those three pastors paid the same Social Security tax rate as the rest of us, the Social Security Administration would have raised over $130,000. In other words, if just these three men were taxed at the same rate for Social Security as the rest of us, more than seven more people could be given the average Social Security benefit each year. If everyone in America was taxed at the same rate, even billionaires, Social Security would make close to an extra $150 billion. There would no longer be a Social Security problem.
But as it is, many Christian conservatives have told us that God wants us to lower taxes. So, while a few will have plenty to live on and leave to their children, what will the rest of us leave to our kids?
As I grow older, I can look at my parents and see their many successes — and a few things they could have done better. And while I was fortunate to get their help through college and some other tough situations, the main things that my parents have given me are love and an example of how to live. For instance:
- My parents gave me the confidence to solve my own problems when they let me fail and guided me through fixing my failures.
- My parents gave me the value of hard work when even at 7 years old, I had to spend an hour each day of our summer vacation in the garden.
- My parents gave me an understanding of the value of human life when they took in a pregnant teenager who had been kicked out of her home.
- My parents gave me an understanding of God’s love and reconciliation when they invited men who had just gotten out of jail to live with us until they had a job and could get their own housing.
But no matter how good your parents are, they can’t give you everything you will need in life. That’s why my parents taught me how to love Jesus and how to trust in God, since God would provide the help that they never could. While we are coming to a place, as Social Security runs out, where the average person in our country, not only will not be able to give an inheritance, but will have to rely on their children to survive, the most important gift we can leave our children is the knowledge that Jesus is alive and the proof that He is alive in us.
Ross Reitz has been a Suffolk resident since 2009. Prior to that, he taught the Bible in Africa for two years and spent six years as a teacher at a Christian school in Philadelphia, Pa.