The Case of the Missing Money: A Family Communication Story

Communication is hard, isn’t it?  How many needless disputes have you gotten into because of something you said.  How many relationships have you damaged by thoughtless words?

Even when we think carefully about the words we say, we can still foul things up.  But it gets so much worse when our tongues aren’t connected to our brains…or more precisely, when our tongues aren’t connected to brains filled with right motives. 

Jesus said, “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:34).  If our goal is to honor Christ in everything we say, we’ve already won 90% of the battle.  The remaining 10% involves understanding and following Scripture’s principles for godly communication.

Training Kids

We just started a new series in our 3rd-5th Grade Children’s Church.  The series titled “Wha’ ‘chu talkin’ ’bout?” is all about honoring God in the way we communicate. 

It is designed to be a kids’ version of the session we teach in our biblical counselor training on The Four Rules of Communication, which is based on principles found in Ephesians 4:25-32.  Here are the four rules we highlight:

  1. Be Honest:  Don’t lie.  Speak the truth. (Eph. 4:25)
  2. Keep Current:  Handle today’s problems today. (Eph. 4:26-27)
  3. Attack the Problem, Not the Person:  Be solution-oriented. (Eph. 4:29-30)
  4. Act, Don’t React:  Use the emotions God gave you for positive action.  (Eph. 4:31-32)

I would encourage you to review these principles with your kids.  Then, use them to discuss the case study below.  This exercise could lead into a fruitful conversation about the ways in which your kids can grow in godly communication.

The Missing Money

Derek and Mason are brothers.  For over six months, Derek and Mason have been saving money to buy a new video game system.  The system they want costs $300.

They’ve been doing extra chores around the house, mowing their neighbors’ lawns, and doing special projects for their relatives all in an effort to save extra money.  Whenever they have been paid for their work, they have put their money in a special cash register in their room.

One day, after receiving some money for mowing a neighbor’s lawn, Derek went to the cash register to make a deposit, but when he opened it, he was a bit surprised.  It had been a while since he had checked the register, but it looked like there was far less money in it than there should have been.  He thought there should have been at least twice as much money in the register.

The Trap

Derek became angry.  Though he wasn’t sure, Derek believed Mason was stealing.  So, he decided to test Mason.  Derek decided to count all the money in the bank and to check back every couple of days to see if more money was being taken.    Then, Derek took the money he had gotten from his neighbor that afternoon, and rolled it up in a pair of socks so that if Mason was stealing, he wouldn’t be able to take the money Derek had a just earned. 

Later that afternoon when Mason got home from soccer, Derek refused to speak with him.  He just stared as Mason.  When Mason asked Derek if something was bothering him, Derek said, “No.  Nothing,” and just walked away.

A couple of days went by, and Derek decided it was time to count the money.  He went back to the cash register and counted the money again.  And sure encough, five dollars was missing. 

Derek just knew that Mason had been stealing from him.  Then, when Derek went to check the money in the sock drawer, he discovered that that money was missing too.  He was furious. 

The Confrontation

When Mason came home from soccer practice, Dered threw Mason on the bed and started pounding him. 

Mason started fighting back and yelling, “Stop it, Derek.  Get off of me!  Mom!  Dad!  Derek’s beating me up!”

And with fists swinging and legs kicking Derek began shouting, “Where’s my money, you little thief!  I want my money.”

The boys’ parent came in to break up the fight.  As they pulled the Derek and Mason off of one another, they asked the boys what this was all about.

Derek said, “Mason’s been stealing from me.  We’ve been saving for a new video game system, and Mason’s been taking all kinds of money from the cash register.”

“Nuh, uh,” said Mason, “The only thing I took from the cash register was five dollars.  But I had a really good reason.”

“Oh, yeah? What?” asked Derek.

Mason got quiet and said, “I can’t tell you.”

At that point, Derek lunged for Mason and said, “Then, I’m gonna make you tell me.”

The boys started kicking and flailing around as their parents were forced to pull them apart again.

“Fine,” Mason blurted out, “I took it to get you something for your birthday.”

“You did what,” Derek asked.

Mason reluctantly admitted, “I took it to get you something for your birthday.  See, I was getting dressed yesterday, and when I went to put on a pair of socks, I unrolled it and this wad of money fell out.  I didn’t know where the money came from, but since you and I keep money in the cash register, I figured Mom had found some of the money I made from doing things for neighbors when she did the laundry, and put the money in the sock drawer. 

“I took the money to get you a present for your birthday next week, but it wasn’t enough.  I was five dollars short.  So, I took the five dollars from the cash register.  I didn’t want to tell you about it.  I wanted it to be a surprise.”

Derek just smirked and said, “I don’t believe you.”

“Why not,” asked Mason.

“Because there’s a lot of other money missing from the cash register—probably about $50.”

“Oh, that?” the boys’ mother asked.  “I borrowed that money from your cash register to pay for pizza the other night.  I didn’t have any cash on me when the delivery man cam.  But I rant to the bank today to get some money to pay you back.  See, here it is.” 

Their mother pulled $50 out of her pocket, and Derek felt very foolish.

For Further Discussion…

  1. What are the four rules of communication?
  2. Which communication rules, if any, did Derek violate?
  3. Which rules, if any, did Mason violate?
  4. Which rules, if any, did their parents violate?
  5. What would Derek have done differently if he had been following the four rules of communication?
  6. What would Mason have done differently if he had been following the four rules?
  7. What would their parents have done differently if he had been following the four rules?
  8. Can you think of an example when you broke one of the four rules?  If you had been following the rules, what would you have done differently?
  9. Read Ephesians 4:25-32 and see if you can determine the verses that teach each rule of communication.
Trey Garner
Trey Garner is the Pastor of Children's Ministries at Faith Church. He has been married to his wife Deb since 2001. They have two children named Noah and Lauren. Originally from Texas, Trey appreciates barnwood, armadillos, and Blue Bell Ice Cream.