This past July, our dog, Sandy, was due for a vet appointment. Julia and I had been delaying it for a few months because every time we go, we feel nickel and dimed into a $250 or $300 bill for them to poke around on a perfectly healthy dog. So this time, we decided to try avoiding that.
Being the aggressive, Dave Ramsey budget-types we are, we set a budget for this visit. Julia suggested, “Let’s not spend over $200. Deal?”
I answered emphatically, “DEAL! But let’s call first and get an idea of what they need to do and how much they expect it to cost.”
So Julia called the vet and learned that we should be able to get Sandy in and out for around $200 after all the necessary tests, vaccinations, and exams were done. We booked the appointment, loaded the car with Sandy and the boys, and drove to the vet’s office, nearby.
They weighed. They vaccinated. They felt around on her, checking everything from Sandy’s teeth to her tail. They found a small mole that they kindly offered to biopsy for $80. I explained–as politely as I could–that we were not concerned with $80 dog moles today. The dog nurse smiled and nodded understandingly, then left the room to prepare the paperwork for us to check out.
“Dogs have been around for thousands of years,” I mumbled to Julia. “How did they survive without mole biopsies?” My clever sarcasm drew a wry smile from her, accompanied by a poke to my ribs.
The tech came back in and asked if we needed flea prevention. We’d done our homework–we knew that the vet discount was exactly $10 cheaper than what we could buy the same meds for online. “Yes, please,” Julia answered. The vet gave us the medication, and we left the exam room for the front desk.
As we waited for our turn to check out, Julia noticed that the total for services was $218…$18 over our $200 budget. We grumbled to ourselves, but by this time, the boys were starting to get rowdy and had begun to tease a rescue cat in a cage nearby. We agreed we both felt unwilling to create drama over the fact that we’d been told we should be able to get in and out for less than $200.
Julia suggested that I take Sandy and the boys to the car so that by the time I got them buckled in, she’d be checked out and would meet us. I left, put the boys in the car, and Julia followed moments later.
As I started the car and began to pull out of the parking spot, I noticed Julia staring at the bill with her lips pursed and a curious look on her face. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“This bill. It was only $128,” she replied.
My first thought was Whoa! That’s awesome! My second thought was Man, that was WAY less than I expected! Then my third thought was Wait a minute. That’s almost a hundred dollars less. Huh?
“Here, can I see?” I asked. She handed me the bill.
Everything looked the same as it had on the bill the dog nurse gave us. Then, I noticed a line item for a $100 discount. After staring and scratching our heads for a minute, we both concluded that the nurse had fat-fingered an extra zero. She had accidentally given us a $100 discount on the flea medication instead of a $10 discount, essentially resulting in her handing us a scott-free $90.
We looked at each other for a moment, taking in the situation.
Lots of things went through my mind. Here are just a few:
- Hallelujah! God has provided for our needs through this much-needed discount!
- This was their mistake. It’s not my fault.
- Go ooooon, take the money and run! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!
- Well, I would go back in there and let them fix it, but I’m already in the car and everything.
I looked at Julia, who was already looking back at me. Her expression made clear that she was thinking what I was thinking, but that the Holy Spirit was gnawing at her, too. It was my call. I looked in the back seat at the boys, who looked back, not fully understanding what had happened, but knowing enough as toddlers to see we were wrestling with something. It pained us both to correct such a fortuitous error.
I looked at Julia and said, “I know we could really use an extra $90 right now, but this is not a gift from God. This is a test.” Julia nodded in agreement. “I’ll stay here with the boys. Can you go back in?” Julia was already unbuckling herself as I spoke and she left to go back inside.
Ten minutes later, she came back out. I had walked the boys over to the nearby train track to watch a passing freight train, and Julia came over to join us. “Well, we blew that lady’s mind today,” she commented. “She made a big scene about me coming back in there to correct that. She called all the nurses over and everything.” Then she added with a mumbled whisper, “So embarrassing.”
I laughed, feeling confident we had done the right thing, but also a bit sore that we had now paid $218 instead of $128. “Well, it’s probably not every day someone returns to correct a $100 error. She probably figured we didn’t need the money.”
Integrity for Sale?
On the way home, Julia and I continued to discuss what had happened. It’s not that we didn’t need the $90. It’s just that we were not willing to sell our integrity for $90. But that begs the question: would I have sold my integrity for $900? Or for $90,000? Or for $900,000? I’d like to think that I surely wouldn’t. The promise of money like that is tremendous. It would promise a lot of security at a time when we could use some.
The only way to combat the incredible promise of money like that is with a greater promise. And that’s what went through my head as I debated leaving or returning that $90. Whatever that $90 promised me, here is what God promised:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10
“The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness.” -I Samuel 26:23a
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33
So the key is that I had to gut-check myself over which I valued more: A quick return here on earth, or a greater reward in Heaven? Too often, I make the wrong choice. On this day, God gave me the clarity of mind to honor Him and make the right choice.
We didn’t give that lady a gospel pamphlet or write a bible verse on the receipt. We didn’t tell her we were Christians or invite her to church. We didn’t do anything to advertise Jesus, except to do what He would have done. And I hope that for that one lady, it made a difference.
If it did, it was surely worth $90 to me.