I was hanging out with some of my family this weekend and an interesting & frustrating discussion came up about the appropriateness of asking for a discount from fellow Christians.
The discussion started because of this story:
A hard-working painter (Joe) we all knew from church went over to give an estimate to another church-member (Mike). Joe goes in looks at all of Mike’s rooms, and measures, calculates, etc – whatever needs to be done to give an estimate. Joe then gives Mike his estimate of what he thinks it will cost to do the job. Mike then asks, “What’s my ‘Brother Discount’?” as if to suggest that he should get an even cheaper price than what Joe just told him – because he is a fellow Christian.
When I heard this story I immediately had a couple thoughts…
- How does Mike know that Joe didn’t already discount the price?
- If Mike can’t afford to pay what Joe is charging, I think Joe probably would have preferred that he (A) kindly explain that or (B) just not do business with him, rather than be manipulated into offering a lower price.
As I am writing this, I am thinking about the difficulty of maintaining a proper balance with this. Everyone needs to get paid, and everyone wants a deal. I like getting a deal as much as the next guy, but I also like blessing those who help me. So, if at all possible, I would rather give Joe MORE than what he was charging me, rather than trying to get him to discount the price. I know that isn’t always possible, but I think if we all did this the world would be a better place.
Receiving vs. Taking
You know, I think it comes down to the difference between receiving and taking. I am convinced that God’s blessings can’t be gotten by us TAKING them by our own initiative, but rather they should be RECEIVED when they appear.
John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” John 3:27
A gift can only be received if it is given. If it is taken, then it really isn’t a gift in the first place. For example, if a child takes a $20 bill out of his father’s wallet, it is a much different thing than if the father gave the child a $20 gift – or even the same $20 bill for that matter. Because the child took the $20, he also stole his father’s ability to give it to him and lost the opportunity for it to be received.
Also, from my experience it is a lot more fun to be given something, rather than taking advantage of someone to get it.
Back to discounts
So as I think about all this, I don’t think I would have asked Joe for a “deserved” discount that Mike did. And I am realizing that what irks me about what Mike did was that he expected it, I think if he had asked if there was a discount for church members, I would feel a little better about it.
Thinking about myself, I didn’t have any problem negotiating prices with our home builders – for some reason that seems different – or am I being hypocritical? Is it the difference between small business and big business? Or fellow Christians and everyone else? Or is it just the fact that Mike seemed to think that he deserved something extra?
What do you think?
I feel like this has been a mish-mash of wandering thoughts, but I’d like to hear your wandering thoughts! Can you relate with Joe (or Mike)? Is it just a matter of an entitlement mentality versus kindly asking?