When do you find it most difficult to live with integrity? And where’s the line? Do you view some behaviors, like “borrowing” a hand towel from the hotel room or perhaps snatching a few boxes of staples from work, as being harmless? What if the drive through cashier accidentally gave you $10 extra change? Would you count that a blessing, or would your heart prick, motivating you to turn back and around and rectify the error?
My guest today shares a time when she was confronted with just such an instance, one that, depending on her response, challenged her convenience. Read on to see what God showed her through this experience.
Are Half-truths Really a Big Deal?
by Lori Closter
Maybe no one’s watching … but small sins matter.
We’re loading groceries into our car in the parking lot and, as the cart empties, see a small bar of soap. Or a jar of salsa or bag of M&M’s. Something small and alone, unbagged, that we unknowingly smuggled out of the store. And it’s pouring out or freezing or a heat wave, and our toddler’s still screaming for an Oreo or, if we’re older, our bad hip is whining because we did all that raking this morning when we knew better.
Whatever the circumstance, the store looks a mile away, and a molehill resembles a mountain.
What to do? Leave it in the cart, in the cart-return “garage”? Hand it off to the employee conflating those carts into a train to trundle back to the store, and hope s/he’s honest? Or—do the right thing, because God is always watching?
We all know the answer: Do not steal is one of The Ten Commandments. But does honesty really matter in trivial things?
A pastor was once given far too much change from his bus fare and, after some internal struggle due to the inconvenience involved, returned the correct amount to the driver. To his astonishment, the driver grinned and said something like, “Thanks, pastor. I’ll see you at church on Sunday. I just wanted to know if you were for real.” A soul saved?
The rewards for honesty aren’t always so clear-cut. My husband and I once drove back to a home improvement store to correct a $1,100 mistake. Somehow, we’d gotten a free generator. When we pointed out the error, the salesclerk completed the transaction without batting an eye. We were indignant afterward. Shouldn’t our honesty have been acknowledged, maybe even rewarded, as people are who turn in lost wallets to the police? At the very least, we felt we deserved a letter of appreciation from the store headquarters.
Scripture addresses this too, in an illustration of an employer who’d assigned his servant a task. “Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:9-10, ESV).
No one may seem to be watching. But God is. The day I found the unbagged item in my cart, I did go back. I received no discount or reward (unless you count the surprised look on the face of the customer service employee), but knew I’d kept a “clean slate” or more accurately, heart, before the Lord. “Virtue is its own reward,” John Henry Newman said, and each step on our faith walk strengthens us for the challenges ahead.
If we search our hearts, do we find tiny sins whose unanticipated consequences could damage others? Do half-truths or unkind words tarnish our “light”? Do we drive as if a two-foot high Christian fish symbol were glued to our car? (Ouch!)
Your turn …
Get to Know Lori!
Lori Closter is an assistant pastor’s wife in the spiritually dark Northeast, a mom, and a grammy. Educated at Cornell and Temple Universities, early on Lori wrote non-fiction and worked on educational films made for National Geographic. She then became a Christian, married, and homeschooled her children for many years. During that time, she felt led to study fiction writing and published three stories (one in the teen mag Brio) and a humorous poem that appeared without her knowledge under the byline of the narrator—a goat. Lori kept writing until she dreamed she was showing a film without a take-up reel, and film was spooling all over the floor. She felt God was making a point and is currently (finally) seeking an agent for her mature YA novel, a 2017 Genesis semi-finalist. Her story collection, Riding the Elephant, is also entered in several contests. Lori prays her writing will not only bless Christians, but find its way, like the Apostle Paul, to beyond “where Christ has already been named” (Rom 15:20), bringing hope to the lost. Contact her at Lori@LoriCloster.com or on Facebook if you’d like to be kept posted!
(Note: the novel title is withheld to comply with 2018 Genesis rules. Any YA judges, please do not visit the website now.)