Honesty. What is it? Allow me first to illustrate it, then to define it, and finally to show that God demands it.
Honesty illustrated. One day long ago in a dry goods store this conversation took place. “Johnnie,’ said the man, winking slyly to the clerk of his acquaintance, ‘you must give me good measure: your master is not in.’ Johnnie looked solemnly into the man’s face, and replied, ‘My Master is always in.’” Johnnie’s Master was the all-seeing God.
One more illustration from a farmer of long ago England. The farmer called upon the Earl Fitzwilliam to inform him that his crop had been ruined by the Earl’s hounds. After inquiry was made, he paid him fifty pounds to repay it. When harvest came, it was discovered by the farmer that he had not lost anything at all. He went again to the Earl, and wished to return the money. This is what is meant by integrity and honesty. [By the way, the Earl was so pleased with the man’s honesty that he gave him another hundred pounds saying, “Take care of this; and when your eldest son is of age, present it to him, and tell him the occasion that promoted it.”]
Honesty defined. hon·es·ty: free from deception, truthful” (Merriam-Webster), “moral uprightness: the quality, condition, or characteristic of being fair, truthful, and morally upright” (Encarta World English Dictionary)
Honesty in word and deed demanded by God. Allow me now to cite for you the eighth and the ninth commandments as found in Exodus chapter twenty.
“Thou shalt not steal.”
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
What is the difference between the person who takes a stapler home from work and the bank robber? In reality there is none. Both are thieves. Both are sinners. Both have broken God’s eighth command which says, “Thou shalt not steal.”
Or what is the difference between the person who commits perjury in a courtroom and spends two years in jail and the person who deceives his boss or parents? Again the answer is nothing. Both are guilty of sin. Both have broken God’s ninth command which says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
Allow me to ask a couple more questions. Have you ever hidden the truth from someone? Or have you taken a pencil or pen home from work, and said something like, “They will never miss it.” What about hiding some of the facts so that another is blamed for something they did not do? Or to ask it positively, are you completely honest in all of your words and deeds.
This is what it means to be honest. The person who always tells the truth, even when it is not convenient, the person who is honest even when no one is looking, this is what is required by the two commandments of God before us today. They demand perfection. The one guilty of breaking God’s Law is condemned to death and eternal separation from God in Hell. For God’s Word says, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Ezek. 18:4
Some would excuse their dishonesty in filling out forms to get something free, or in taking advantage of another by saying, “I am not harming anyone.” Oh, but you are. You are harming your own soul. Others may excuse the poor for taking what is not rightfully his. We may indeed have sympathy for the poor, but his sins are not justified. He is still guilty and must suffer the consequences for his deeds. For Proverbs chapter six plainly says, “Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.” The OT law for theft demanded restitution plus a penalty. [See Ex. 22] Governments can also be immoral and guilty of defrauding and taking what is more than just. I fear our government has already reached that point when millions are taxed 25 – 50 % or more of their income. Some taxation is justified for the purpose of defense and some other legitimate expenses. But when most of it is taken from those who work only to be given to those who do not, it becomes sinful and immoral. Our present government has put its citizens into such enormous debt, that our children and grandchildren will not be able to pay it. This is immoral and wrong. They have no right to take what is yours and mine.
Are you a liar? Many reading this will no doubt quickly answer, no. But have you ever told a lie? Have you told more than one lie? If you have told lies, does that not make you a liar?
Are you dishonest? Again you may answer, “Well I am mostly honest.” But have you taken something that did not belong to you? Do you always give back the cashier the money when he/she gives you too much change? Have you ever deceived someone and allowed them to believe what is not true? If you answer any of these incorrectly, you are a guilty sinner before a holy God. His Law demands perfect righteousness.
Another sin that is prevalent in our day and even promoted by advertisements openly seeking customers to commit this sin, is bankruptcy. When someone declares bankruptcy and does not pay off fully his/her debts they are both lying and stealing. They have lied, because by incurring the debt a promise is given or implied that repayment will be made. They are guilty of stealing, because they have that which they did not pay for. Wicked lawyers greedily seek to help these sinners by telling the creditor that it is legal and it is ok. The government is complicit by making it easy and legal. When I was a child bankruptcy, like abortion and divorce, were sins to be ashamed of, and never spoken of openly. But today we are like those in the days of the prophet Isaiah, whom he described as not being able to blush at their sins. Sin has become so common that there is no more shame.
The story is told of a business man in Boston many years ago who lost his business and could not meet his debts to his creditors. After more than twenty years of toil, he succeeded in paying the whole amount due to every creditor, except one, whose residence he could not find. His mind was not at rest until he found that the party had died, several years before. He found the heirs and remitted the whole amount, principal and interest. That is what God demands. Oh, how our society has moved far away from its principled past! Oh, how our nation needs to repent and turn to God!
Luke chapter nineteen tells the story of the conversion of Zacchaeus. It is the story of a man who was a dishonest thief, but who found redemption through Jesus Christ. In fact Jesus Himself said, “…This day is salvation come to this house, … For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” What was the proof or the fruit of His new birth in Christ? Listen to Zacchaeus’ own words, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Sadly there are many reading this paper, who think themselves to be Christians, who know nothing of the fruit of true repentance exemplified by Zacchaeus. Dear Friend, you have been deceived. For without true repentance for our sin, there is no salvation in Jesus Christ.
Do not deceive yourself into thinking that God does not condemn you, by saying, “Everyone does it.” Indeed it is true that multitudes are guilty of breaking these two commands of God. But God’s standard is His own perfection and does not change. His Word declares in Romans chapter three, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: . . .There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Notice the description of mankind by a holy God. Notice how God describes our actions and our speech as sinful. See the last verse which gives the reason for our wickedness, “there is no fear of God before their eyes.”
The very next verse says, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” And just a little further down it says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
Dear Friend, do you know yourself to be a sinner before God? Or are you still under the deception of sin and Satan? Allow God’s Word to bring you to the end of yourself. Read again the 8th and 9th commandments from God and ask yourself, “Have I perfectly kept these commands in everything all of my life?” For if you and I would see ourselves rightly, we would know and understand that we are hopeless and helpless sinners who deserve God’s wrath and judgment. In other words do you right now confess yourself to be a sinner? I did not ask have you ever sinned. But are you a sinner, who deserves nothing from God, but to be cast into the Lake of Fire? If you know and confess yourself to be such, before God, then praise Him. For you are now in the only place where salvation can be found. For Jesus Himself said, in Luke 5:32 “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And the Scriptures also say, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;” 1 Tim. 1:15 and also, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8
Sinner Friend, the Bible is very clear that, every sinner who comes humbly to Jesus Christ in faith confessing himself unworthy of His salvation, seeking only His mercy, shall be saved. Right now, cry out in faith to Jesus, Who died for sinners, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” For the Scripture says, “…he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, …” Right now I urge you to come to God through the merits and mercy found only in Jesus Christ. He will receive you. He will save you.
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