Thursday, 28 August 2008

What Would Jesus Do?

My co-father-in-law Dave posted this conundrum over on his blogRather than get into an extended debate on Dave's blog, I thought I would give my further thoughts here. For one thing, if Dave posts that he did something different, it may cause a family dispute.;) If this is going to result controversy, I'd just as soon I did it here as over at his place. Here is the relevant part of the story,
The gas station here is full service so I told the attendant I wanted $20 of regular. She set the pump then went off to help other customers. A couple minutes later I realized the pump was still going and I quickly got out to shut it off. It was just over $54.00. The girl saw me get out and came running over to see that it had not stopped at the $20 she said she had set it at.

I was torn as to what to do; as to what the Christian thing was to do. If I had wanted to fill it I would have gone across to get the cheaper gas. Yet I did get much more than $20 worth of gas.

Here was my reply:
The right thing for a Christian to do is to pay for the gas you got, even if it was a mistake on the attendant's part. If the attendant was short, she would probably have to pay it herself. The really right thing to do, especially if you are known as a Christian, especially if you are known as a pastor, is to pay it graciously. The really, really right thing, if you are not known as a Christian or a pastor, is to pay it graciously and then introduce yourself as the pastor of the Baptist church. As the song says, "They will know your are Christian by your love."

Another person replied as follows:
Hummm....that's one of those trick questions! On one hand, I agree w/ John K. On the other hand, you did only ask for $20. You could have been in a position of ONLY having $20 to your name. As a single mom at one time, it's happened to me. $20 for gas. That's my budget. So, then what? Does it make you LESS of a Christian to NOT pay for what you didn't ask for? I don't think so...
And it is against the law in most places (Alberta included) for the owners to force the attendant to pay for mistakes, drive offs, etc..
So - - I guess I didn't answer your question, but would love to hear what you did!!!

But I did have further thoughts, and here they are. It seems to me that knowingly taking something not due you, unless it is a willing gift on the other party's part, is theft, even if it was a mistake on their part. My daughters still give me a hard time over the time, on a family outing, they were accidentally given a loonie too much change at a variety store. They told me about it a couple of km down the road. I turned around and made them take it back. Theft is theft, whether it is from the person behind the counter who sold you the pack of gum, the gas station attendant, or Imperial Oil.

In the case of having only $20.00 for gas, let's say that you are so strapped that $20.00 a week is all you can afford for gas. In that case, if you got $60.00 of gas accidentally, you now have 3 weeks worth of gas. You should then pay the gas station $20.00 each week for the next two weeks. Then you have given and received fair value.

We are called to live Christ-like lives. I can't imagine Jesus hassling the gas station attendant over her mistake.

Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Love, for the Day is Near. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:7-10)

I would welcome any thoughts as well.

Take Care


stauf46 said...


Now you've gone and quoted Scripture on this matter. What fun is that? How can we argue with Jesus?

John K said...

As Henny Youngman, that great theologian of years past, would say, "I've got a million of 'em!"

Here's the one that's so obvious it is easy to overlook.
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you..." (Mat 7:12a)

The Nicky said...

For what it's worth, I agree that as far as the over-pumped gas, if it's in your tank, you bought it, regardless of whose mistake put it there, and you should pay for it. (You can't very well give it back, which would also remedy the problem.) I have accidentally pumped more gas than I intended to, and been short of funds to cover it. Usually there is a reasonable person at the register who is willing to work out some arrangement with you, as long as you are up-front with them about what happened.

This reminds me of an incident at Walmart a few years ago (when I was NOT following Jesus). I had gone through the checkout to make my purchase, and also to make a payment on some items I had in layaway. The cashier was still in training, and unfamiliar with the procedure; and I stood there and watched her take my $20 payment, and credit it against my account five times (in effect, making a $100 payment). I did not volunteer to correct her, or say to put it bluntly I stole $80 worth of merchandise from Walmart, with never a guilty thought, until your posting.

So, what should a repentant Christian do, when confronted with his sins from the past? Am I obligated to go back and attempt to remedy any and all instances where I have done wrong? And how? There are many other occasions I could come up with that are similar, but let's use this one as the general case, shall we? I am interested to hear the opinions on this.

John K said...

If it were me, I would probably volunteer to return it.

But it's like the letter received by the IRS,

"To Whom It May Concern"
I have recently become a Christian and find I can't sleep at night, so here is $100.00 that I owe you. If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest."