“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
A man who called himself a roofer came to my door one day saying he would put new shingles on the roof of my house for such and such a price. I thought that was a pretty good deal, so I signed up to have new shingles put on (for the roof needed it).
However, the man betrayed me and I lost the $1500 that I put down as a down payment.
Now having learned my lesson about not signing contracts too quickly, and checking out my sources carefully, and realizing that I still needed my roof repaired, and having been recommended a certain other roofer by a friend of mine who is a pastor, I proceeded to call up another man who is a roofer.
This man came over to do an estimate on how much it would cost to get my roof redone, and I recounted to him the story of the first man who had walked off with my $1500.
The man became very upset, and displayed a real sense of frustration and outrage at what the first man had done. His comment stuck with me, “About 5% of the population are like that,” he said to me.
I remember thinking to myself at that time, “Well, it depends on how you spin it. We are all sinners in God’s sight, in need of redemption.” This man, of course, was claiming that he was certainly not part of the “5%” of the “bad apples”. Surely, he was one of the good ones.
The man gave me his quote on how much it would cost to get my roof redone, and left.
As the days went on, I got several more quotes on what it would cost others to redo my roof. The whole while, I was also very careful in asking questions to make sure that the people I was dealing with were “above board” and would not walk off with yet more money (there is a limit to this kind of stuff ).
Naturally, I also wanted the best deal that I could get. But I was very conscientious of the fact that a person should not try to get a “good deal” at the expense of quality. After all, is this not what had happened the first time, when the unscrupulous man had walked off with my money? I had wanted a “good deal” and his “deal” sounded very good indeed.
Buyer beware! A deal that is “too good to be true” just might be!
Now my pastor friend, who had recommended to me company “B” (the second roofer) had told me, in conversation, that he had saved money on getting his roof done by offering the man (the second roofer) a “cash deal”.
I said, “Really? He gave you a discount when you paid him cash?”
He said, “That’s right.” Then he added the ominous words, “He didn’t give me a receipt, though.”
Now that sounds very bad. A man that does a “cash deal” and does not offer a receipt may be trying to evade paying taxes. However, the thought never occurred to me that this might be the case with this particular roofer, because he had told me that he puts new roofs on some 350 houses a year, and does some 2 million dollars in business annually. I thought to myself, “Surely a man like this, involved in so much business, would not stoop so low as to cheat the government from their taxes.”
I was wrong, however.
Still not believing that this would be possible with this man, I called up his office, and asked if I could get a discount if I paid cash. The woman at the other end of the line said, “Yes, that would be possible. I will get back in touch with you with the details.”
She called me back and told me what the new prices would be.
Now the “old price” including 6% tax was about $3950. The “new price” for the cash deal was $3750. I said, “Thank you very much for the information,” and told her I would get back to her with our decision.
My wife and I talked this over for a moment and soon realized that the amount of discount that the roofer was offering was ominously close to the 6% tax that the roofer was required, by law, to collect for the government.
While I appreciated the fact that a discount was being offered, something in me was not at peace. But how could I approach the man and ask him if what he was doing was above board? I decided to call back and discuss the matter, so that is what I did. I must say, I was slightly uncomfortable, but I knew this had to be done in order to satisfy my conscience, for my conscience was not at peace in the matter.
I said to the lady, “May I ask a question?” She said, “Yes, please go ahead.”
I said, “If I pay cash, do I get a receipt?” She said, “Yes, you will get a receipt.” Then I said, “But my pastor friend, who had his roof done with you, told me that you did not give him a receipt when he paid cash for his roof last year.” The lady delayed a moment, and said, “Just a moment.” I could tell that she was going to discuss this matter with someone else (I did not know that the boss was right there). She came back soon and corrected herself, “No, you will not get a receipt. But you will still get the warranty card so you will be fully covered under the warranty.”
In an effort to bring the truth out in the gentlest possible manner, I said to her, “So if I pay by Visa or MasterCard or cheque, then I will get a receipt, right?” She said, “Correct”. “But if I pay by cash, then I do not get a receipt, correct?” “That’s right,” she said.
I said, “Why is it that if I pay by cash, that I do not get a receipt, but if I pay by Visa or MasterCard or cheque, that I get a receipt? Can you please explain that to me?”
Now at this point, the owner took the phone and spoke with me directly. So I asked him the same question. And here is what he said (in this you will see that this man, who does 2 million dollars worth of business a year, openly confessed to being a thief).
The man replied, “Figure it out.”
I said, “Figure it out? What do you mean, ‘Figure it out’?”
The man said, “Figure it out. There is only one reason why people do cash deals.”
I said, “I don’t understand. Can you please explain that to me?”
The man then proceeded to explain to me that if I paid him cash, then the money would not be declared to the government and so he could save me the tax in that manner. The man also said, “I have no choice. People force me to do this.” I could tell we were getting to sensitive areas (the man was starting to come under conviction for his sin, but not to the point of confessing, but rather, only to the point of saying that he was “forced” to do what he “had” to do in order to earn a living). I thought this was laughable but decided not to press the man. Instead, the Holy Spirit was doing an awfully good job at this point pressing the man himself. I did not need to increase it!
I decided to appeal to some logic.
“You know, if you are willing to cheat the government, then you would also be willing to cheat me”, I said. “Why should I trust you to do my roof?”
The man did not like that and definitely felt threatened. But the statement was quite true.
It reminds me of the story that another pastor once shared. It is the true story of a man in the workplace who was asked to lie for the boss. The phone had been picked up by the employee, and the caller was asking to speak with the boss. The boss was right there (by the employee’s side) and whispered to the employee, “Tell him I’m not here”.
The employee took the phone and stretched it out towards the boss, and said to the boss, “YOU tell him!” Then he added, “If I will lie FOR you, then I will also lie TO you.”
The Christian man was quite right. If he had been willing to lie FOR the boss, then he was certainly willing to lie TO the boss. How could such a man be trusted at all? In reality, he could not. For if he was unfaithful even in such small issues as this, he could not be trusted at all. This is why James wrote, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) And Jesus himself said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10)
Now don’t get me wrong. This roofer is not any worse than anyone else. I have been exactly where this roofer has been in the corruptness of my own heart. But I think what this true story shows is the lie that the second roofer spoke to me early on in the game, when he said to me, after finding out that I had been robbed $1500 by the first roofer, “About 5% of the population are like that”.
In reality, 100% of the population was like that, not a mere 5%. And instead of this second roofer being excluded from those who were “like that”, he was certainly very much included – just as guilty, just as sinful as the first roofer who walked off with my $1500. In fact, I would dare say that this second roofer has walked off with much more money than that – stolen it from the government, he has. That makes him as much of a thief as the first roofer, and even more guilty, still, because he is a man who runs a prolific business, with 2 million dollars a year in revenue, and lots of experience (a whole lot more than the first roofer, I can assure you). This man ought to know better than that. He is definitely a thief.
Which brings me to another point. The Bible says, “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As such, we are all guilty before God’s eyes – who will one day judge the living and the dead with true justice. Nothing of what we do will escape his notice.
Without a Savior to rescue us, we are all doomed to hell for all eternity. “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9) There is not one, unless you can say that you have truly repented of your sin, and allowed Jesus to take over the reigns of your life. Jesus is the healer and the Savior. Jesus can, and does, make all things new. The Bible says that it is through Jesus alone that we can find forgiveness for our sins.
Jesus took our sins on the cross. To all those who are willing to confess (acknowledge) and renounce (give up) their sin, he offers eternal life. If you agree that you are a sinner, and want complete forgiveness for your sins – past, present, and future – then God offers you that today, if your heart is in a place to receive forgiveness. You simply need to come to Jesus in humility and offer him your heart and your life. Ask him to make you his child. Tell him that you’re sorry. He will come into your life in a way that you never dreamed possible. And he will give you the strength to carry on.
In closing, we are often short-sighted when it comes to acknowledging our own sin. The man who stole $1500 from me and the one who stole from the government are no different. All sin (wrongdoing) is an offense to a holy yet loving God. Ultimately, it is to God that we are accountable. We may “judge” that to steal $1500 from a man is worse than stealing the same amount (or greater) from the government. However, that is not true. When we steal from the government, we are putting a burden on the government, so that the government is not able to do its job. As a result, taxes go up, and the burden is then shared by all people. So the man who steals from the government is actually putting a burden on all people. You see, it’s not so easy after all to “distance” yourself from your wrongdoing by saying that it is not against any single person. In reality, all sin affects all people. And “the whole creation groans” because of this, the Bible says (Romans 8:22).
One day, however, Jesus is coming back. He will make all things new. For those who know him, there will be everlasting salvation. That means heaven. For those who have rejected him, and refuse to repent, there will be everlasting judgment in a place that you do not want to go. Make your decision now, because, as the Bible says, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).