Greed Doesn’t Give Back Change
It doesn’t matter how much money somebody has, we must give him back the change unless he tells us to keep it. It also doesn’t matter how little the change was. People who keep change without being told to, usually start with small amounts. It later grows. I call it robbery without violence. Many change-keepers assume that the person whose change they are keeping wouldn’t mind, or perhaps he was not expecting it back.
This vice is extremely common in some societies, especially among relatives or friends. Is the word vice too strong for the simple thing of keeping the change? If we feel that keeping the change is not a big deal, that is when we need to remember that the ‘size’ can deceive. Something doesn’t need to be big to irritate. A small stone inside a shoe is enough to hurt relentlessly. Sometimes it is not the size that matters, rather it is what the size represents. If we don’t give back change, the question is, why?
I once read a story that can help us understand how the size can deceive. A servant of God was preaching in a congregation when he talked about some very minor details of being faithful. Being a guest speaker, he wasn’t acquainted with his audience. The following day, he boarded a bus and after paying, the bus driver refunded him the change. As he walked to his seat, he alternately checked the receipt and the change in his hand. Meanwhile, the driver was checking him on the mirror to see if he would try to reconcile the change and the receipt. The passenger man of God realized that he had been refunded more. But the extra was so little—some few cents. He reasoned in his heart that it wasn’t a big deal. The amount was so little that it couldn’t bring any accounting problem to the bus driver. He almost sat down when the Holy Spirit whispered to him to refund the money to the driver since the idea that the amount was insignificant wasn’t the issue. He went back to the driver and told him that he had over-refunded him. The bus driver told him that it was deliberate. He was in the meeting the previous day and never believed the preacher that one can be so pious even with petty things. “Now I believe that you practice what you preach, and I am challenged to live the kind of life you exhorted us to live,” the bus driver concluded.
The trickiest test of our faithfulness is not how we account for the big things, rather it is by the way we account for the small things.
At one time, we were undergoing some financial crisis as a family. I had gone to shop in a food store. After the lady at the counter checked my wares through, she gave me Norwegian Krones (Kr.) 500,- I didn’t even take the money in my hand but in a flash of a moment, the devil had bombarded me with ‘good reasons’ why I needed to take the money:
This lady is not a Christian. She doesn’t give tithe and doesn’t give offerings. God has blessed her with a job but there is nothing she gives back to God. It is just fair that God has caused her to give you the money. She will still have enough to sort herself out after making up for the shortfall in her accounting.
That whisper from the devil confirms the fact that he will always try even where he should know he has no chance. It is like when he tempted the Lord Jesus, couldn’t he figure out that he had no chance to get Christ to give in to his temptation? It didn’t matter how badly off we were, I couldn’t just take the money. I told the lady that I was the one to pay her and not the other way round. She was grateful for my honesty. I felt so good inside of me—better than I would have felt if I took her money.
Mr. Hare and Mr. Eagle: A Story of the Wages of Greed
Let me use a fable to explain how greed can be short-sighted. Mr. Hare got an invitation to visit the moon. The adventurous Hare really wanted to honour the invitation but he didn’t know how to get there. One day he met his friend Mr. Eagle and explained to him his helplessness.
Of course Mr. Eagle would help—how did he not think about it earlier? They agreed that they will travel together. He would ride on the back of Mr. Eagle. The journey was planned and everything was set.
On the material day, they left very early, aiming to reach the moon before noon. The unsuspecting Eagle didn’t know what the cunning Hare was up to when the latter introduced his new name upon arrival. He told Mr. Eagle, “From now on, my name is called Guests.” Mr. Eagle never bothered to find out why the change of name.
Hungry and tired from the long journey, Mr Hare thought it would be a good idea to have all the food and drinks for himself. He forgot that Mr. Eagle was hungrier and more tired than him after having bore Mr. Hare’s weight and flapped his wings all the way for the steep climb to the moon.
Mr. Hare told Mr. Eagle that they should act civilized and not just assume that whatever was brought into their room were theirs. Mr. Hare took upon himself to be asking whenever something was brought in.
Moments later after their arrival, food and drinks were brought.
Mr Hare: Whose foods are these?
Host: The foods are for the guests!
Mr. Hare: What about the drinks?
Host: The drinks too are for the guests.
Whenever the host announced that the food was for the guests, Mr Hare would happily and insensitively announce to Mr. Eagle that the food was his (Mr. Guests). In this way, Mr. ‘Guests’ ate all the lunch and supper and drunk all the accompanying drinks. The poor Eagle watched and starved while the greedy Mr. ‘Guests’ feasted on food and drinks that were meant for both of them.
Mr. Hare had forgotten who made it possible for him to get to the moon. After starving for the whole day and night, Mr. Eagle had had enough of Mr. “Guests” greed. Annoyed, he woke up very early the following morning and left while Mr. “Guests” was still asleep. When he finally woke up, Mr. Eagle was nowhere.
When the time came for Mr. Hare also to leave, he had no means. He had to fall all the way from the moon to the earth. Upon landing, he broke his limbs and his bulging stomach almost burst—he almost died. What a price to pay for greed!
The Bible says, “Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith” (Prov. 15:16). In the same way, isn’t it better to have just enough in the stomach, with limbs intact, than have a bulging stomach with broken limbs? It is a pity to have a bulging stomach but not the limbs to suspend it from ground.
How many cases exist of people who overwork their servants (employees) as they starve them of sleep and food? By doing this, they don’t realise that this will only be counterproductive. In the long run, they will be the ones to pay the price. Greed doesn’t even pay the right wage for the work done.