these are questions of the heart. and the answers to these questions directly shape/reflect your character.
when i was growing up, colossians 3:23 made a profound influence on my life. my mother would quote that verse to us as kids more often than any other that I can remember.
whatsoever you do, do it as unto the Lord and not unto men. (yep, kickin’ it up old school – KJV style)
and it was hearing that verse over and over again that shaped my work ethic. that’s not to say there aren’t times that I only do what’s minimally required of me. or that as a kid my method of cleaning my room sometimes consisted of shoving everything under the bed or into the closet.
but I can remember countless times that I’ve almost been done with a task and then I noticed a small detail that wasn’t required of me but I knew that were I truly doing this “for the Lord” I would do it with excellence anyways.
such as when I was on the maintenance crew of a summer camp. working at a summer camp definitely has it’s fun and rewarding times, but it’s also hard work and long days. one of my duties was to clean the bathrooms. those bathrooms easily get dirty with mud and pine needles. I’d go in and sweep, refill the toilet paper & paper towels, wipe down the toilets, and clean all the soap and water off the counters. I was about to walk out the door and I’d notice a small scrap of tissue or paper towel or a candy wrapper behind a toilet that I hadn’t noticed before. every fiber of my tired body would be screaming, “just leave it. nobody will ever notice or even care.” but inevitably that verse would come to mind and I’d go back and clean up whatever was left.
most recently this principle (of doing what is right no matter who is watching or if it will ever be noticed) came to mind again with the decision of whether or not to tithe on our Stimulus Package check.
now before I even go into the details of the story you could probably guess the outcome. we did tithe on it. after-all if we had decided not to I probably wouldn’t be blogging about it.
i was taught at an early age to tithe on all money received. this included income, gifts, refunds, rebates, money found on the street, etc. since then i’ve heard some pretty convincing teaching that Scripture only asks us to tithe on our earned income, thus excluding everything mentioned above but the income.
now i’m not sure where this Stimulus Package check falls. is it really just and advance on taxes we’d pay for next year? or is it a “gift” from our generous government?
in any case, i felt prompted by God for us to tithe on our check.
do i think that God would strike us dead if we didn’t? no. would we fall into financial ruin within 6 months if we failed to tithe on it? not really, i think we’ve implemented some pretty sound biblical principles on managing and stewarding God’s money to keep us from that. do i think that everyone should be tithing on their Stimulus Package check? not necessarily, ask God, don’t ask me.
no, i think for me/us it was more a matter of obedience. God was asking, “will you do this simply because i’m asking you to, whether i give you the “proof” of why you have to or not”. we normally always pay our tithes. and it comes right off the top of our budget. it’s become a habit. we don’t think about it any more.
and this test of obedience came at just the right time. seeing as how we have a sizable family our Stimulus check was also sizable, and thus tithe on said check would also be a good chunk. and this was the time that we were looking to buy a new van to better accommodate our growing family. and that chunk of tithe would go a long ways when paying for a used vehicle or paying tax and license on one.
in the end i decided that my integrity and character was worth more than the amount of that tithe check. i decided that being obedient to God (even when no one else was looking or would ever know) was more important than our desire to get a new van soon. if we would have to wait a little while more to save up the amount needed for our van, so be it.
the other occasion that this came to the forefront of my life was in the sale of our other car. we went to the buyer’s house to sign the title over, but the buyer wasn’t there only his wife. so we signed our portion of it and said we’d come back for our section of it later after they’d signed it. he came home just as we were leaving but we didn’t have time to stay anymore. i did hear some conversation in the living room mentioning that he didn’t want to sign it yet or then he’d have to register the car in his name.
you see, as it was, the registration paper in the vehicle still had deb’s name on it. there was also a proof of insurance card that had deb’s name on in still in the glove compartment. now we had told them previously that we had already cancelled the insurance, but the card was still in there that said it didn’t expire until july. (this story took place in the beginning of May)
so … essentially if he got pulled over he could say he was just borrowing the car, the policeman would see the proof of insurance card and not have to give him an additional ticket for not having insurance. if he signed the title and had to register the vehicle within 15 days as it states by law, then he’d have a registration in his name and the defunct insurance card that had deb’s name. the two pieces of paper wouldn’t match and the cop would be suspicious.
i mulled this over for a while, knowing that it wasn’t “right” but not really wanting to confront them about it either. 1) because they are good friends of ours and 2) because if they wanted to do things “wrongly” then that’s their problem as long as i choose to do the right things, right?
and it’s on that second point that i realized that a true friend should try to encourage you to do the right thing not let you get away with wrong behavior.
so a couple of days later i confronted him about it, and told him that i didn’t think it was right, and that he should not try to be deceptive, and that the price of liability insurance on such an old car wasn’t worth compromising his integrity for. he thanked me for confronting him about it and encouraging him to be a more honest man. he also let me know that he and his wife had already had a lengthy discussion on the matter and had come to the same conclusion.
so there you have it. tough decisions sometimes mean not so glamorous recognition or reward for doing the right thing. in fact sometimes it even costs you something.
it may be easy to justify your actions, or to bend the truth, or to take the “easy road”, or to settle for “good enough”. but in the end it’s costing you a lot more than a few hundred dollars, or a difficult conversation with a friend, or a few extra minutes that you gained. the price you pay is that of your integrity, your character, your name.
as another quick test: if you are given the wrong amount (more than what you deserve) of change from a store clerk do you …
give it all back immediately
give some of it back but not all
count it as a blessing from God
either A or C depending on if it’s just a few cents or a few dollars.
i don’t ever count back the change i’m given
if the amount is just a few cents and you keep it, think about it in terms of: i just sold my
character for 18¢.
// today i’m thankful for:
1. no baseball games today because of rain
2. finally selling our green van
3. only a few more days till WWDC
4. take out from Golden Yan
5. a sunny afternoon drive with my wife