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.