Do you remember Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith TV Show? There were a number of times on the show where he would be yelling to another character “Nip It! Nip It! Nip It In The Bud!”
Now, whether it’s flowers, vegetables or even trees, if you’ve ever had great plans for some type of garden, things can quickly get out of control…if you don’t nip those weeds in the bud! There have been times when I saw where some seedlings were starting to ‘come up’ nicely and they only had a few weeds around them. So, I waited several days to cultivate around those little “sprouts” and when I went back, those weeds had multiplied exponentially and grown so quickly that I had a hard time even seeing where I had planted my seeds! Just like I’m sure many of you have, I’ve learned to deal with weeds when I see them and use mulch, if possible, to prevent them.
But perhaps more importantly today, I’d like to talk a little about the ‘weeds’ or wrongdoing (sin) that can take over and eventually ruin someone’s situation in life, all because they didn’t “Nip It In The Bud” – early.
Over twenty years ago when I owned a successful manufacturing business, my general manager and I started to notice a “downturn” in the business. At first, we thought it was a sign of the economy slowing down in general, because we had experienced something similar several years earlier. But as the year progressed, the economy nationwide appeared to be doing great, but we were still slowing down and we didn’t know what was going on, other than the orders and cash on hand were seriously close to drying up. It was becoming so confusing…Had we been hit by fierce competition that we didn’t even know about? We knew it was almost past time for some major “brainstorming” to figure out what was happening.
On the day that we were planning to have our first meeting to go over everything and every detail about the business, the third member of our team-our office manager, called in sick. Now, just a little background information on the office manager…a very reliable employee, always there before and after everyone else…covered the phones, had most of the contact with customers, order entry, even prepared checks for me to sign. Always busy, “on top of everything” and very efficient!
Well, with just the manager and myself trying to take calls and ship some parts that day, we were ready to get busy for the day. Almost immediately the confusing thing was that every customer who called was angry saying they had been waiting weeks and weeks for their orders…and yet, all the parts they wanted were sitting on the shelves…We did our best to calm the customers tempers for what was to be the best sales day in months!
Eventually I brought the mail in and at about the same time my general manager was finishing a call from an out of state customer. He said this customer was faxing a copy of a notice that our office manager had sent a few weeks earlier…when I was opening and viewing ALL OF THE MAIL MYSELF FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME, I started seeing some things that “led me down a trail that broke my heart”…Our office manager had been stealing money from the company. I was shocked and hurt! As I was poring over some of what I had found out-wondering how much more will I find, my general manager handed me the fax from the out of state customer that he had spoken with earlier. There, on our company letterhead signed by our office manager was what that customer had been talking about. To summarize: Our office manager was in the process of putting us out of business-closing the doors permanently to cover-up the theft! This was all so hard to believe…yet, there was the beginning of the evidence right there in front of me. It was clear, I had almost been embezzled out of business.
I’m not going to get into any of the details any further than that. The business was basically saved just in time, and within about a year we were doing more business than ever… First of all though, let me say that I bear a fair amount of responsibility in how long the embezzlement went on…four years. I’m sure many of you have heard “Trust But Verify”. I trusted blindly…
But as I was required to reconstruct-with proof as much of the theft as I could (many records were destroyed) the thing that really “stood out” to me was: Year 1 there were only 4 events. Year 2 there were 9 events. Year 3 there were 24 events. Fourth and final year there were over 200 events! When I saw that, I was amazed at the progression! Anytime during that first year especially, it would have been so easy for that person to simply confess the wrongdoing and “Nip It In The Bud” before it took root in their heart…but I guess with the progression of time-and thefts, the “weeds” took over. The other thing I thought of when I saw that progression is a quote that is usually credited to Ravi Zacharias, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
But there is always hope…”Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20-21
Till Next Time…..