Faithful in Little

We're all horrified when we read stories in the news about another major business scandal. Multi-million-dollar scams. Insider trading. Sweetheart deals between businessmen and politicians. Well, we ought to be angry about these sensational cases of corruption and injustice. But what we sometimes don't realize is that the same practices we get so angry about on Wall Street and Capitol Hill permeate our whole society. Let me give you just one example. Not long ago, I got a letter from Holiday Inn with several coupons. Each coupon offered $10--off my bill or in cash--if I stayed at a Holiday Inn on my next business trip. Sounds good, doesn't it? But think about it. Say you're travelling at company expense. If you take the $10 off your bill, well and good. You've saved the company some money. But everyone knows the temptation is to take the money in cash instead. And when you write down the full amount on your expense sheet, while slipping that cash rebate into your pocket, you've just cheated the company out of $10. Holiday Inn calls it a promotional strategy; I call it a kickback. They call it a marketing inducement; I call it unethical. I wrote a letter of protest to the president of Holiday Inn, but he just didn't seem to understand my objection. He reminded me that the customer doesn't have to take the money in cash. He can apply it to his bill, in which case the discount goes to the company. Which is as it should be, I say. But how many customers do you suppose really apply the discount to their bill? Holiday Inn itself obviously doesn't expect many to. Otherwise they wouldn't be offering the discount in cash--with the coupon in the replica of a $10 bill. How many customers are so unselfish that they'd choose a particular motel just to save money for their employer? The rebate in this case is not large--only $10. But what's important is not the amount of money, it's the principle. People don't seem to think anything of making a profit at someone else's expense, especially when the loser is a wealthy employer. They don't even see that what is disguised as a consumer discount is really a kickback. We are right to be outraged when we hear about major scandals that bilk the public of millions of dollars. But we should be just as indignant about the little bribes that tempt ordinary folks. Maybe we'd better look a little more closely at what comes through our mailboxes. Let's work at sensitizing our own conscience. Otherwise, we just might fall into the same temptations we condemn in others. For myself, I've told Holiday Inn I don't intend to stay in their motels any more. I'm offended by their inducement to deceit. It doesn't matter whether it's $10 or $1000. Jesus said if we are faithful in little, we'll be faithful in much. How we respond to little temptations in life determines how we'll handle the big ones. So think of the small temptations--the $10 rebates--as a test of character. Our national character is molded by the small decisions made by millions of citizens in the course of their everyday lives.


Chuck Colson



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