Read Debby’s Prayer here
One look at Johnson’s excited countenance as he walked into the office and I could tell that he had successfully swindled another client. I shook my head in irritation and pretended to be engrossed in what I was doing on my laptop. I didn’t want any small talks with him this Monday morning.
“JJ how far,” Johnson wheezed as he tapped my desk. I groaned inwardly. No such luck.
“Good morning Johnson,” I responded with a forced smile on my face. “You look so excited this morning. Did you hit a jackpot?”
He burst into a needless laughter. “You can say that again.”
“Oh. Congratulations”, I said dismissively, returning my attention to the laptop in front of me.
He hissed. “Won’t you ask me how it happened?”
I narrowed my eyes as I looked at him. “The usual, right?”
“JJ,” he started as he adjusted some files on my desk and perched his buttocks at the edge. “I don’t know the day you will wise up o. Look, in this office, your salary alone cannot sustain you. You need to be smart and discover other means of making cool cash.”
“Like inflating the quotation you give to unsuspecting clients?” I asked with a hint of irritation in my voice.
He smiled lightly. “That is just one way. And the good thing about it is that you can never be caught if you play your cards well.” He bent and whispered into my ear. “How did you think I was able to buy a car two months ago?”
I sucked in air as my eyes widened. “What!? I thought you took a car loan!”
“Car loan my foot,” he spat. “JJ,” he continued, adjusting his tie. “No go dey dull yourself o. Everyone in this office does it. Well, except you, and that is why you are not making any progress. Always asking for salary advance up and down, while some of us are looking for how to spend the money. Wise up bro!”
With that, he stood up, dusted his buttocks and walked to his office, leaving me in deep thought.
Johnson’s words, and the fact that his last statement was true cut deep into my heart.. The salary I received from ONX Outsourcing Limited was barely enough to take care of my basic needs. On top of that, I had to send money home monthly, as well as contribute to the payment of the school fees of my younger siblings. Many months saw me asking for salary advance as I could hardly cope. I couldn’t remember the last time I bought a new shirt or underwear for myself.
My colleagues on the other hand were doing very well. Since the company didn’t pay so well, they had devised a means of survival. Whenever they secured any client for the company, they would understudy the client to know how gullible he/she was. When they had ascertained this, they would then inflate the quotation given to the client. Most of the clients paid the inflated price. My colleagues would then remit the original sum to the company while keeping the extra cash. This had been going on for a while and the management never found out. I had been tempted to do so on many occasions but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me.
The first time I told Johnson that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t permit me to defraud another, he laughed out loudly.
“That is the problem with all you religious fanatics. What concerns the Holy Spirit with how you make your money?”
“Johnson, the Holy Spirit is not just concerned with how I make money. He is concerned with every single thing that pertains to me. I cannot act the way I like because I am not my own. I am bought with a price.”
“O yeah,” he sneered. “And I am bought with kulikuli and groundnut right?” Okay, keep wallowing in foolishness. The Holy Spirit won’t allow you abi? Yet He won’t provide a better paying job for you. Look at how skinny you look. Embarking on hunger fasts in the name of prayer fasts. You think I don’t know?” he finished sarcastically.
I felt embarrassed. “Johnson, I may not have all I want, but God provides all I need.”
“Who says you can’t have all you want and all you need? Who says so?” He shook his head as he walked out of my presence.
The sound of the telephone ringing on my desk brought me back to reality. It was Johnson.
“JJ, I just got a new client. Should I pass her to you?” he said in one breath.
I already knew why he was asking. He wanted to “help” me. At this point, I was undecided. It was just the ninth day of the month but I had already exhausted my salary. After sending money home for dad’s drugs and paying my sister’s hostel fees, I had just a little above four thousand naira in my account. To say I was broke would be apt.
“Bros, answer me na, make I pass am?” Johnson asked impatiently.
“Yes.” I didn’t know when the word escaped from my lips.
“Correct guy,” Johnson replied. I could imagine him grinning. “I will send her number to you ASAP,” he finished and ended the call.
As I dropped the receiver into its cradle, my hand shook. “Lord, what am I about to do?” I muttered to myself as I stood up and went to the restroom.
As I stared at my reflection on the mirror, tears welled up in my eyes. The story of the three Hebrew Boys dropped in my heart. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in a strange land, just like I was, yet they purposed in their heart not to defile themselves with a portion of the king’s meat. They determined in their heart not to worship the King’s god, even if it spelt their death. They were bold and resolute, damning the consequences, and God came through for them. He delivered them.
I took a deep breath. I may be “broke” financially, but I was not going to allow it break my relationship and consecration with the Lord. I was not going to amass money by ungodly means, even if everyone in the office was doing so, and even if it had become a normal way of life amongst staff. Like the three Hebrew Boys, I was going to stand my ground. Hunger or not, lack or not, broke or not, I will not give in to compromise.
With that, I splashed water on my face, adjusted my tie and walked out of the rest room. On getting to my desk, I picked up my phone to call Johnson and I noticed he had already sent the client’s phone number via SMS. ‘my share is 20%’ he included in the text. I smiled.
I dialed his number and he picked up at the first ring.
“Have you called her?” he inquired.
“Johnson, I will not be calling her. You can have your client back.”
He sighed in exasperation. “Why?”
“Because what you are suggesting I do is wrong! I want to make money in a clean way, not through the ungodly means you are suggesting. God frowns at what you want me to do, and so do I.”
He hissed loudly. “That is your business. I have tried my best to help you out. Rubbish.” He ended the call.
I leaned into my seat. “Thank you Lord” I whispered. “I won’t trade my allegiance to you for anything in the world.”
Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase. Proverbs 13:11
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows- 1 Timothy 6:10