Pastor Dana Miller quickly shut his laptop when he heard footsteps coming down the hall. He certainly didn’t wish to be caught confirming this transaction, so close to its conclusion. His stomach churned.
He was negotiating to purchase some property for his church’s expansion, and it was taking some finagling to reach success. It seemed like the world was encroaching on God’s kingdom more and more, and in order to stay a step ahead and gain ground, one had to be, as Scripture admonished, “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” He believed he was following that instruction to the letter.
In the current negotiations, his financial advisor—and the church’s Facilities Director, Josh Duncan—had informed him they had yet another hoop to jump through before the property would be theirs. It required the Pastor to claim on a legal form a certain sum in his own investment accounts, an amount which he simply did not have.
The only way around that was to have a willing individual, preferably outside the congregation, transfer that amount into the Pastor’s accounts, with the guarantee that within six months the Pastor would return that amount to its origination. It would create the appearance that Dana had the required funds, at least for the duration of the transaction.
He had sweated and stewed over this matter for so long, it had become part of his waking and sleeping hours, and most of his conversation with God consisted of trying to convince the Lord that in His wisdom, he should understand that this was necessary in order to “fight the world in its own arena.” After all, no one had been able to find a specific law against this money shuffle (although the spirit of the law indicated, because of the conditions written into the seller’s proposal, the Pastor was to have his own funds as a hedge against default).
But the church needed this ground. And it didn’t seem like God was providing any other way.
There came a quiet rap on his door. Glad he had closed his laptop, he called, “Come on in.”
Josh Duncan ushered in a tall, quite beautiful woman, dressed in a very feminine business suit.
“Dana, this is Anna Gwinn. “
Dana stood and extended his hand. “Very glad to meet you, Ms. Gwinn,” he said warmly, holding the woman’s hand a half-second longer than he usually did on greeting a guest. He was very nervous, and she was quite intimidating. He offered her a chair opposite him at his desk, then returned to his own.
Josh leaned casually against the windowsill. He too was nervous, and couldn’t have sat if his life depended on it; and the sunshine through the window warmed him and soothed his nerves. He was the instigator of this transaction, despite feeling deep in his gut that there was something not quite right about it. But he would let the Pastor lead, and if the Pastor felt it was okay, well, who was he to object?
Anna Gwinn leaned her elbows on the pastor’s desk, looking at him over steepled fingers. “I assume the funds have been transferred?”
Dana nodded. “I was on the computer just before you came in; it’s all there. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your contribution, Ms. Gwinn.”
“Well, it’s not strictly a contribution, now, is it?” She straightened and sat back in her chair. “But can I be frank, Dana?” Her green eyes seemed to pierce his soul; he felt sweat trickle down his sides, although the room was anything but warm.
“Is something troubling you about this?” Dana asked her.
“You trouble me, Pastor. You know that in the end, your church stands to lose a great deal of money. If the economy sours, if your collections drop off, well, I stand to make a bundle off this property, which will be mine, fair and square. But, what’s done is done.” She leveled a look at Josh, who wanted to sink into the floor.
Dana Miller and Anna Gwinn shook hands in parting and mutual agreement, and she left.
Josh sank into the chair she had vacated and focused his eyes on Dana’s.
Dana understood the look. Deep down inside, he knew: he had just denied his spiritual values and taken an awful step down a slippery slope.
It took ten seconds for him to reach the hallway, surprised to find Anna Gwinn waiting.
“Ms. Gwinn, we need to talk.”
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