Welcome to Banbury Evangelical Free Church

Banbury Evangelical Free Church was founded in 1984, as a Bible-based, Christ-centred congregation seeking to proclaim the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ and to serve Christ in every aspect of our lives, both as individuals and together.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

How valuable is a good conscience to you?

The other day, I had my camera stolen. This is how it happened:

Jenny & I were on holiday, visiting the Traction Engine Show held near Pickering, north Yorkshire. Towards the end of our time there, just after I had taken a photo of Jenny standing next to a vintage car, we decided to have an ice-cream. I put the camera in its bag slung over my left shoulder, and we moved to a nearby ice-cream van. There was no queue at the time, though almost immediately as we moved to place our order, I was conscious of a man in the queue standing behind me. In fact, he was almost too close, and I almost stepped aside to let him go first so as not to be rushed in making our choice. However, I did not do so: I ordered our 2 ice-creams – 2.30 each! – and handed over a £5 note. The vendor – deliberately, I now believe – gave me change of two 20p pieces and one 10p. As I turned away, I was momentarily confused by the fact that the change was wrong, said to Jenny, “He's not given me enough change”, whereupon she looked at the coins in my hand and said, “No, he's given you too much”. In the brief moment of distraction, the “man in the queue” behind me, whisked the camera from my shoulder and was gone. We did not even notice it happening! I turned back to the ice-cream van, said to the vendor, “You gave me too much change” and gave him back 10p. I noticed a strange smile on his face, but assumed it was just embarrassment at having given me the wrong change.

When, 20 minutes later – yes, it was at least as long as that! – we realised the camera was gone (it was after we had left the show and were on our way back to the car), it took a while to work out what had happened. Initially, I felt somewhat rueful at having given back 10p to a man who, I am now convinced, was complicit in the theft of a £100+ camera. But on reflection, overall, I believe I came out the richer from the transaction: I lost a camera and gave back 10p, thereby preserving a good conscience – he and his accomplice gained my camera (and got their 10p back!) but incurred a guilty conscience.

How important is a good conscience to you?