When the girl behind the register rang me up the total came to $16.13. I thought I had a dime and three pennies, but I had four pennies. I didn’t want any more pennies, so I gave her $22.03. She looked confused. I expected that. Kids today (now that I’m 50 I find I start lots of sentences with those two words) don’t seem to know how to make change. Back in my day (I start quite a few with those four, too), teenaged girls who didn’t know Julian Bonds from Gary U.S. Bonds, or a numerator from a denominator would hang the tray on your windshield, take your cash and say things like: “You got another nickel – that way you get three quarters back.” Nowadays kids headed to prestigious universities, kids with 4.8 averages because of their loaded courses look at you like lobotomized Labrador Retrievers when you explain how adding three pennies makes it come out right. Usually though they will acquiesce. I’ll say “Just trust me,” and they say “Okay.” Then they usually say “Wow!”, or sometimes “Dude!” One guy at Barnes&Noble said, “Dude, that’s great! I always need quarters. Show me again.” I did, and said, “Yep. Math facts. I try to use one every day.”
But this girl wouldn’t acquiesce. She refused to take $22.03 for a $16.13 bill. She would only take $22. “It’s too much,” she insisted. I explained that I didn’t want any more pennies, and that this way it was less change. “It’s not less change – your way you get 90 cents back and my way you get 87 cents back.” “Yes,” I insisted, “It is more money, but less change. 87 cents is six coins, 90 cents is five coins, and besides, I don’t want any more pennies.” “More money is more money,” she said emphatically and rang me up for $22 paid, giving me a five dollar bill, 87 cents in change, and my three pennies back - which, of course is $5.90. I could have had my denouement by asking her to change five pennies for a nickel, but my wife was waiting to eat and would not have found my story amusing, so I pocketed the change and took my tray to the table.
You can’t force people to accept truth. Even when you explain it to them they sometimes refuse to see. Last Sunday Mickey Yost told us about the prisoner he was studying with who said “This is clearly true, but I don’t believe it.” Saying “Just trust me” is not a substitute for communicating truth either. Someone who yields to your point just because of your persistence hasn’t been convinced, they’ve just been irritated.
We who try to communicate eternal truth to those without it must remember these things. We must remember the bitter math fact Jesus admitted in the
Sermon on the Mount – that most people will NOT find the way that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7.14). Some folks will not see the difference between “more money,” and “more change.” Some won’t see the difference between a faith response and a works response. Some can read 10 passages connecting baptism to salvation and argue that there is no connection.
Sometimes folks won’t listen because of the tone we take. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, and our sincere concern, people will refuse to respond anyway. Think of Paul and King Agrippa (Acts 26), Peter and the thousands who didn’t respond on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and Jesus with the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18). We must remember this. We must also remember that neither Paul, nor Peter, nor Jesus stopped trying to communicate.