True faith will cost you everything – including five bucks

By Stew

During the month of February, McDonald’s put on a “free coffee” promotion. Since I always start the day off with a little hot caffeine and since I am not all that picky about my coffee, I usually took advantage once or twice a week during the last month. Two bucks for a sandwich, hash brown and small coffee -no cream, no sugar- was too good a deal to pass up.

One morning, I made my order and proceeded to the first window and handed a $10 bill to the young lady standing at the cash register. She handed me $7 plus change and I started to pull up to the second window. When my car was almost past the first window, I looked down to discover that I was only holding two dollars and change. I immediately braked and backed up to the window to tell the server that I had only been given change for five dollars and reminded her that I had given a ten dollar bill. She immediately apologized and handed me a five to make up the deficit.

I proceeded to drive to work and get on with the day. When I got home late in the afternoon, Mrs. Stew asked me to run to the grocery store and I invited our three kids to join me on the trip in order to get them out of my wife’s hair for a couple of minutes. After securing the children in their seats and safety belts, I happened to look down toward the brake pedal in our van and noticed a slightly crumpled five dollar bill sitting on the floor. I quickly picked it up and started to stuff it into my wallet thinking it was my lucky day . . .  until it dawned on me where that money came from.

When the server handed me my change, the wind probably caused the five on the bottom of the pile to hang down and I only grabbed the two ones on top, plus the change. The five fluttered down to the floorboard of my car without attracting attention. It took me a couple moments of internal debate, but I knew what I had to do, especially since I was going to drive past McDonald’s on the way to the grocery store anyway.

I pulled up to the drive-through speaker and stated that I did not have an order, but wanted to return five dollars to the till. I pulled up to the window and handed the money to the slightly surprised cashier. As I drove past the second window, the manager flagged me down and asked for an explanation. I told her what happened and she confirmed that the morning shift cashier’s drawer had come up short. She thanked me and then gave me a free cup of coffee . . .

So why did I return the money? Was it because I am some ethically perfect person? Was it because five bucks is not that much money? Did I do it in order to teach my kids a lesson? ? First, I am far from some kind of ethical giant, I very nearly stuck that money in my wallet without another thought. Second, in the Stew household, five dollars is a good amount of money. Third, this situation did provide the opportunity to disciple my children, although if I had stuck the five dollars in my pocket, they would have been none the wiser.

I was motivated by three things:

Fear of eternity

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.  2 Peter 1:10,11

A desire to follow Christ

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  Luke 14:27

To confirm my salvation

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God. . . Philippians 2:12-15a

You see, the Bible makes it clear that a true Christian will follow and submit to Christ. I was faced with the following two choices: a) keep the money and admit that I am not who I say I am: a Christian or b) return the money, submit to Christ and trust him to provide for my needs.


14 Responses (including trackbacks) to “True faith will cost you everything – including five bucks”

  1. Damsel Says:

    WTG, Stew… I’ve been in that same situation. For me, in addition to it just being the Christ-like thing to do, it was all about the other person. I didn’t want to be the reason for that cashier to be in trouble. I didn’t want the money to come out of their paycheck.

    I feel like there are a lot of complaints about “people these days” (maybe I do some of the complaining myself)… and I just like to make the world a little brighter for some people.

    It’s kind of like my dad’s philosophy on tipping. He says that the difference between a good tip and a GREAT tip is usually about five bucks (depending on the restaurant, of course). He figures that he’s been blessed, and that the waitstaff could probably use that money more than he could. I kind of figure that he’s right.

  2. Stew Says:

    Damsel, good point – it would have been fun to see the cashier’s face when she came in the next day and they told her that her drawer had been balanced.

  3. Linda Says:

    I applaud you for listening to that still small voice. “The Holy Spirit”! It is about Character doing the samething you would do when someone is not watching, as you would do if someone is watching, cause someone is always watching. The word says “His eyes roam to and fro over the earth” Blessings to you. And yes the children are watching also!

  4. Derek Says:

    I also applaud you for your character. I had faith cost me about $5 once, although the person I could have stolen from possibly never would have known.
    I pulled up to a self serve car wash the other day and sat in line waiting for my turn. Once the car in front of me pulled away, I quickly took my spot in the bay and walked up to swipe my card to start my wash. Interestingly, the red clock timer was still counting up, slowly adding seconds (and money) to the previous users wash (indicating that they never hit the big red button to stop their wash). Of course, the previous user was long gone. Had I not pushed the button for them to reset the timer (so I could swipe my own card), I could have easily washed my car on their dime. Car washes are fairly inexpensive, but this scenario certainly tested my faith to do the right thing and avoid washing my car with someone else’s money.
    Thanks for the reminder to always do the right thing. Have a blessed day!

  5. Emily Says:

    Although I don’t think you would lose your salvation for keeping the five bucks, I do believe that every choice you make that is in disobedience to His Word equals a choice to lose momentum and progress in your walk.

    Thanks for being transparent.

  6. Loring Says:

    I once wrote a check for about $50 to a local grocery store. After several months it had not cleared so I told the store owner about it. I could tell the owner was quite surprised when I brought this to his attention. He said he would look for the check. I told him I’d write another check if he could not find it. Several days later I checked back and he hadn’t found mine but did find several other checks. Apparently checks and credit receipts get mixed together causing some checks to get overlooked. I’m sure others would have simply added the money back into their checkbook balance but I would have felt like I was stealing, which I guess is essentially what it would have been.

  7. Randy Says:

    I tend to go through a couple of questions in situations like this. First, if the situation were reversed, what would I do? Supposed the person gave me $5 too little? You already answered that, you backed up to get the “missing” $5. Second, who will be losing? In this case, if it was the cashier, $5 can make a big difference (of course, it’s no different stealing from Ronald McDonald, but I’m like a lot of people on this.)

    I think what you did was great and I hope I’d do the same everytime. I know I’ve done it some.

    My question though, is how far do you go to return the money? I once tried to correct a cashier who gave me too much change. They explained they had done it right and when I tried to explain a second time, they insisted. I decided it wasn’t worth fighting over and I pocketed the surplus.

  8. Sharon Warden Says:

    I would have done the samething, and have done similar actions, but didn’t think twiceabout it, what I should do, what I should not do. I would do it because it is the honest, right thing to do, whether or not you follow Christ. Jesus said to love your neighbor and love your God. Well, if you do that you automatically do what is right. Sometimes of course you don’t, and that’s where the fight begins!

  9. Linda J Says:

    Just so you know…..any discrepancy in the cashiers till over $2 comes out of his/her paycheck. The third time that it happens, the employee can be suspended or fired. As an ex-cashier…..Thank You!!!

  10. melinda Says:

    It’s sad you only did the right thing because you believe a deity is watching you and you might be punished. I do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. Also it IS just a belief that there is a ‘god’, not a fact.

  11. Stew Says:

    If there were no God, there would be no “right thing”, just personal preference.

  12. Donald Says:

    No, even without a belief in God, there is right and wrong. Hurting other people is wrong. Selfishness is wrong. Treating others fairly is right. If your belief in God is what is necessary to compel you to treat others fairly, then I am glad for society’s sake that you hold this belief, but at the same time I feel sorry for you.

  13. Ed from Wheaton Says:

    I wish I had had a dad who loved Jesus like you. Keep living for Him! You inspire me.

  14. JuicyG Says:

    I tend to act the same way. It`s not God that drives me because as I`m not a believer.
    It`s just the respect another human being deserves along with trying to remain self disciplined and encourage a positive attitude. You usually reap what you sow.