I would like to ask a question since it deals with teaching my children. Will the Lord be pleased with the way I am teaching my children to live in this world today?
Lying example - I have a son who is disabled and has a life expectancy of early twenties. I'm trying to get him on SSI and Medicaid. Last year I was denied because I had $2,000 in a savings account that I was saving to pay for our property taxes. SSI denied me because of the money I had saved. I no longer have that savings account and am trying again this year. My son's doctors told me to lie on the paper work to be filled out and pretend he is the only one living in this house. They said I had to somehow beat the system.
Cheating example - I am taking a night class and all our quizzes and tests are open book which means I get to look up all the answers from the book. For those of us a little older, remember in school how much trouble we would be in if we got caught cheating. How much learning am I going to learn that way.
Stealing example - I was at a grocery store gas station where you use their store card and get $.03 off per gallon. I used that card only I received $.08 off per gallon. My daughter and I just grinned thinking about the great deal we got today because the grocery store made a mistake.
Will the Lord really be happy with the way I'm teaching my kids to live in this world today? My son really needs to get SSI and Medicare. We have no insurance and we can't afford his medical needs on our own. I need this night class for a job to help with our finances. I can pass the class with a higher grade if I look the answers up in the book. And, I'm sure all of us try and save those pennies any time we can, even if it's the store makes the mistake.
I am so glad that you are thinking about not just telling your children what is right, but showing them what is right. It is the same principle stated by Paul: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). It is one thing to know in theory what need to be done, it is quite a different one to see the Scriptures lived in front of us.
Your son's doctors are subscribing to the mistaken philosophy that the ends justify the means. As you suspect, it is not a philosophy that God approves. In regards to sin, Paul asks, "For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"? -- as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just" (Romans 3:7-8). Sinful conduct does not produce good. A lie does not improve a situation.
Just suppose you did lie. You might get the funds, but you will also gain the worry about being caught in the lie. People do check once in a while. Would you be better off financially if your lie was found out?
In truth, there is no hiding a sin. "Take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). Our goal is not to make our earthly life more comfortable, but to always be pleasing to God. "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10). God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), and neither should we.
Thus, we must put on our thinking caps to discover the unobvious. There is likely a way out of this mess that doesn't require a lie. It is Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), who wants us to sin. Thus, he will set up the situation to make it look as if sin is the only way to an end. However, God promises, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13).
Since the problem appears to be the money being saved each year for property taxes, the easiest solution is to go ahead and pay the taxes in advance. The money will be going to the government anyway. Yes, a small amount of interest might be lost, but in your case it would be worth the minor expense. Once the taxes are paid, you can apply for the benefits. You have not lied or cheated the system. You simply put the money set aside to its designated use so that the government can't claim you are attempting a slight of hand. And you are "providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (II Corinthians 8:21).
By the way, I have a brother-in-law who helps people deal with the Social Security Administration. He helps them prepare the forms and their case so that the proper aid can be applied to the situation. You should check to see if there is such a person in your area -- hopefully a Christian who will give you solid truthful advice.
I teach college courses and generally give open book, open note tests. Since my courses deal with working in the business world, I figure that most people would need to know where to find the answer when they don't know it. I warn my students that they still need to know the material because if they expect to look up all the answers, they will never complete the test in time. Instead, they should be able to answer most of the questions from memory. For those answers where they need to jog their memory, knowing the material allows them to locate the answers faster.
Is it cheating to look? No. First, your instructor told you that you were allowed to do so. But second, the rule is being applied equally to all students in the class. God told the Israelites, "You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin" (Leviticus 19:36). God did not tell Israelite merchants want he thought was a fair price for wheat. He allowed them to set whatever price they chose. However, God did demand that the transaction be fair. If a person is buying a hin of wheat, then they should get precisely a hin.
If you went to the grocery store and found an incredible bargain on the cereal isle, would you bypass it because you believe the price was set to low? Yet, this is what you are saying to your teacher. "I think the course is too easy, so I'm changing the rules for myself."
Now think about it from the employer's viewpoint. Given two candidates that both took the same course, one made an "A" and another a "B." Wouldn't the employer assume that both received grades under similar rules? Will he wonder if the "B" student only got the "B" because he was making the course harder for himself? All things else being equal, who is going to get hired? You see, even if I knew the "B" student was making the course harder for himself, I would still higher the "A" student. Why would I want an employee that makes work harder for himself. It would ruin productivity!
First, make sure the situation is truly as you described. I have a discount card for a gas station through a grocery store. Normally the card gets me two to four cents off at certain stations, but the grocery store adds extra discounts at times as bonuses for purchases at the grocery store.
But assuming that someone made a mistake, the fair and honest thing is to point it out. If you got less than your expected discount, would shrug your shoulders and say "Oh, well" or would you go ask? If you behave one way when things are against you, why should you behave differently when things are in your favor?
The same rule should apply when you receive change. If a mistake is made, you should point it out. The transaction was done with certain expectations. I was willing the buy the object at a given price. I will not benefit from someone's mistake.
Once the mistake is pointed out, it is up to the clerk to decide how to handle the mistake. Some will thank you and make a correction. Others will consider it good customer relations to say "I made the mistake so don't worry about it." A few, who don't care about the company they work for will be annoyed that you are holding up their line. But whatever the decision, you did the right thing and they decided how they would like to handle the problem.
I once was entering a deposit to my bank on my home computer and realized the clerk had mistyped the amount, putting an extra $3,000 in my account. I ran straight back and wait in that clerk's line. Though she acted as if it was no big deal, I did note that she remembered my name for the next three years that she worked there. Another time, I was paying off a loan with automatic payments from my bank. When the last statement came in, I notice that last payment was short by fifteen cents. For some reason the loaning company made a mistake in dividing out the payments and had shorted itself. I caught the mistake on the day it was due, so I hurried around town trying to find the proper department in this big company to pay my last fifteen cents. When I finally found the proper clerk he looked at paper and muttered something about dumb computers. Though I owed the fifteen cents, he went into the computer records and cleared the charges because he felt the mistake was on his company's part. Still, I'm sure he was shaking his head that I would spend so much time just to pay fifteen cents. But that is what I want my children to remember.
"But he honors those who fear the LORD; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change; he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved" (Psalm 15:4-5).