There was a very nice priest who used to give special sermons every weekend at four churches. Everybody liked his sermons because he was a very kindhearted and nice man. Very often he used to show personal interest in people who belonged to his churches, and the congregations admired him and appreciated him.
He could walk to three of the churches, but one was quite far so he used to take a cab there. Usually the driver would wait for him while he gave his sermon, and then charge him for the waiting time as well as the trip. He would always give long sermons and everybody would get joy and appreciate him, so he never cared about spending the extra money on the cab.
One day, he didn’t have as much money as usual, so he said to the taxi driver, “Let me go and see how many people are there today. It is raining heavily, so perhaps many people have not come.”
The taxi driver said, “Fine. You go and see. If nobody is there, you can come right back. I will leave the meter running and wait for you. If I stop the meter and have to wait for you for an hour or two, it will be very expensive. The best thing is to let the meter run for a few extra minutes.”
The priest assured him, “I will go see how many people are there. If there are not many people, I will come back in a short time.”
The priest entered into the church to give his talk, but it was completely empty. Suddenly a man in a big hat and raincoat entered hurriedly and sat on the first pew, shivering. He said to the priest, “You are giving so much to your congregation, but today nobody is here.”
The priest said, “You are the only one who has taken the trouble to come today. You are such a spiritual man. But I have to ask you one thing. Since today you are the only person, can I give you a very short talk?”
The man said, “You! What kind of priest are you? Today I am so spiritual, so soulful. I have come to hear your full sermon. Always you give at least an hour talk. This time also you have to talk for at least an hour. My wife is making my life miserable. My whole family is rotten and they are all cursing me. You have to give a wonderful talk. From your sermon I will get such peace.”
The priest said to himself, “He is such a sincere man and here I wanted to fool him so I could go away quickly to save taxi money. Father in Heaven, how can I deceive such an innocent man?”
The man was insisting, “If you are a sincere priest, you will never think of the number of people. You will think only of the heart. My sons have gone to the dogs. My wife makes my life miserable. And you want to shorten the sermon!”
The priest said, “Please forgive me. I will give my full sermon and you will get much consolation.”
So he gave his long sermon, speaking for at least an hour and a half. All the time the meter was running in the taxicab. Finally the priest asked the man, “Are you satisfied?”
The man answered, “Yes, yes, I am so grateful. You have given me such consolation that now I don’t have to come here for two weeks! For two weeks it will not be necessary for me to come.”
The priest said, “Every week you should come; otherwise, your love for God and Truth will decrease. So I want you to come every week.”
The man said, “All right, I will come. I am so deeply moved by your sermon. You can’t imagine how deeply moved I am and how much I have benefited from your words.”
The priest said, “Now, let me go. I am sorry. I asked the taxi driver to wait for me, saying that in a few minutes I would be back. What is he thinking of me? I hope you will forgive me for wanting to give a short sermon and that he will forgive me for making him wait. Again, if he does not forgive me, no harm. I will pay whatever the meter says. I have done such a good job. To save even one person, to offer a sermon at the time of even one person’s need, is my only goal. I have come here to save humanity, and I am glad that you have benefited from my talk.”
When the priest said, “Goodbye,” the fellow ran faster than the priest and entered into the cab. He took off his coat and hat and waited. When the priest entered into the taxi, he got the shock of his life. For he realised that the man who had been inside the church was none other than the taxi driver.
The priest said, “O Father, O Father in Heaven, forgive me. Just a few minutes ago I asked You to forgive me because there was such a nice, sincere man waiting to hear my talk and all I cared about was saving money. I thought the man was a nice listener who needed my sermon. Now I see that he has deceived me. This time I pray to You to forgive him.”
The taxi driver said, “Our Father has forgiven you, but He is asking you to pay me. You are a priest, and you have to be honest. So whatever the meter says, you have to pay.”
The taxi driver brought the priest back and the priest paid what the meter said. It was a very large sum. The priest said, “Father in Heaven, please forgive him. Please forgive this undivine taxi driver.”
The taxi driver said, “Father, please forgive this stupid fool, this priest.”
Once deception enters, how much embarrassment there can be. The priest was always nice and kindhearted, but on that day he didn’t have much money. Even though he didn’t have money-power, if he had had heart-power, very sincerely he could have said to the man in the church, “Today I have no money. Will you be able to help me pay for the taxi if I give a long sermon?” Because he resorted to deception, this is what happened. If he had explained, “Every week I come and give a long talk, but today I do not have enough money to pay the taxi driver to wait,” then the rogue taxi driver would have been caught. But just because the priest was insincere, this happened. A drop of insincerity on the part of the priest created such embarrassment!