Have you ever made a huge mistake? A mistake that required professional help to correct? Can I share with you an experience I had when I was a young Associate Pastor? It’s a tiny bit funny right now, but back then, it was catastrophic.
Sue and I were engaged to be married in a few months, and I needed to replace my frequently fainting Ford. We were both living in Milwaukee, and busy with work and wedding preparations. For several weeks, I had driven past a certain dealership and contemplated a closer look at the yellow Cutlass in the showroom. It was a gorgeous car, and perfect for a young minister like me. One Saturday afternoon, I stopped there and met a mild mannered salesman. I immediately trusted him.
As we looked at the car, a warm feeling came over me. The price was steep, but who knows, maybe they had a special deal just for me. While we were talking engines, hubcaps, and the new car smell, I told him that I was getting married soon. He said, “Dave, this car is the perfect honeymoon car.” In my heart I knew he was right. The warm feeling grew stronger. One of us thought it would be a great idea to take the car for a spin, and let my fiancé see it, too.
With my head in the clouds, I handed him my driver’s license and signed a release paper to take the car off the lot. It was one of those glorious Spring days in Wisconsin when you feel like a king. Sue loved the car but we agreed it was just too much for our combined incomes. I took the car back to the dealership, and said that I appreciated the drive, but would not be buying it.
When I asked the mild mannered salesman for my drivers’ license, he cleared his throat and asked me to step into a side room with a window and another man. That’s when he told me that when I signed the paper, I had actually bought the car. It was now mine. He asked me how was I going to pay for it.
Looking back, I should have reported them to the FCC or the FBI or the CIA or IBM. They were shysters of the worst order. They took advantage of a rookie that was saturated in warm feelings. They didn’t know that I only made $100 per week and my apartment was $250 per month. I could barely afford groceries and car insurance. But they pressed me to sign more papers and to make a deal.
Like a man arrested by the police, I asked them to let me make a phone call. I called my Pastor who laughed! After he composed himself, he said to tell the unscrupulous professionals that I want them to void the sale and to give me back my driver’s license. He also said that if they didn’t do it right away, call the church attorney. The pastor gave me the name and contact information of the attorney, and I then confronted the “gentlemen.”
That was certainly a day to forget, and to remember. The warm feelings melted into embarrassment that I can still feel today. In fact, I don’t even sign the guest registry at a wedding until I have read the fine print. The fine print or footnotes, contain contract terms, conditions, disclosures and other information that is essential to the contract, but the seller does not want the buyer to know. Often, couched in the legal technicalities, are surprising “gotcha’s” for the buyer.
Sin is like that. Sin hides the dirty details in the fine print. The large print is full of all the feels-good benefits you will get. Sin looks like such a good deal at first and gives you many warm feelings. But the unread fine print always contains the trap. Samson did not read the fine print when he courted Delilah (Judges 16). Ananias and Sapphira didn’t read the terms of the contract, conditions, and disclosures before they lied to the church (Acts 5). The Bible calls the consequences of sin wages (Romans 6:23), or the reapings (Galatians 6:7), or a trap (Proverbs 11:6), or death (1 John 5:11-12). You may not believe me, but it’s all in the fine print.