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AN AMAZING FACT: In December 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the December 2010 Tax Relief Act, which established the estate tax code for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. Under this law, estates of deceased persons with values of $5 million or greater would be subject to 35 percent taxation before their remainder is passed on to beneficiaries.
The federal estate tax has been around for a long time, although the various rates and rules of the tax keep changing. Some states also levy an estate tax in addition to the one imposed by the federal government. Moreover, some states have an additional inheritance tax levied against the amount received by the heirs, meaning a given estate might be taxed up to three times before the various governments are finished taking their shares.
The author of Ecclesiastes understood very well that a man’s wealth stays behind after his death and is enjoyed by other people. The thought of his wealth, the fruit of his life’s labors, belonging to someone else who could be “wise or a fool” (Ecclesiastes 2:19) deeply troubled him, so much so that he considered the accumulation of wealth as “vanity”—and this was before federal or state estate taxes or inheritance taxes!
Jesus knows how deeply many people value their worldly treasures, despite the knowledge that it remains behind after death. Instead of spending our lives accumulating wealth, which can be stolen or destroyed and which will pass to another person after we die, Jesus asks us to focus on heavenly wealth: eternal life and freedom from sin. These are the divine treasures that, once we have them, can never be lost or taxed.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.