Dear Aunt Dara,
I am a single mother trying to raise two young children alone. I work full-time, but barely make enough money to pay the bills and keep my kids fed. Money has been tight for a long time, but my financial situation has become worse with the recent increase of the cost of gasoline. I have been praying that God will bless us by giving me enough money to get us through until I am able to get a better job. Last week, I used a $10 bill to pay for a $5.27 order at a drive-through window. The cashier gave me four dollar bills (so he thought) and some change, but what he had actually given me was three $1 bills and a $20 bill. The extra $19 couldn’t have come at a better time. My gas tank was nearly empty and it was three days before pay day. When I told my sister-in-law the good news about how God had answered my prayer by providing gas money, she said that it was wrong for me to not correct the mistake and I should return the money. I don’t understand. Why should I return the money when God was using the cashier’s mistake to take care of my family’s needs? Besides, the restaurant doesn’t need $19. It’s a major fast-food chain. How do I get my sister-in-law to understand that it was an answer to prayer?
Poor and Puzzled
Dear Poor and Puzzled,
First of all, let me commend you for your faith in God, your dedication to prayer, and your reliance on God for His help. Truly, God has heard your prayers and He will bless you in time. I also commend you for your dedication to work, especially since you are supporting your children as a single parent. However, I must agree with your sister-in-law. Regardless of how much money the restaurant chain makes, the money is theirs and should be returned to them. God would not have taken money deceitfully from the restaurant to give to you, no matter how deep your level of neediness. For you to accept the money as yours is dishonest gain. Consider this: Instead of a blessing as an answer to prayer, God may have been using the cashier’s mistake as a test. Jesus tells us that if we are faithful with little, we can be trusted with much (Luke 16:10). To pass the test, you must return the money. However, do it anonymously so that you will not get any recognition or praise for your honesty. Buy a money order for $19 and mail it to the restaurant’s manager with a note explaining what happened. Be sure that the note says that you are returning the money to please the Lord and to bring glory to God. Sign it, simply, “A Christian.” That way you will be a witness for Christ and God will bless you for doing the right thing.
As a final note, read Matthew Chapter 6 every day and continue to have faith that God will supply everything that you and your children need (Psalm 37:25, Philippians 4:19). Be a person of integrity, be faithful to God, be trustworthy with what you have, and honor God by giving back a portion of what you have been given
(I Corinthians 16:2, Luke 6:38). Then in time God will bless you by giving you that which is far beyond your needs.