Saturday, October 13, 2012

Honesty

Honesty

 

Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;” – 1 Peter 3:10

Honesty is one of the most misunderstood virtues.  It has been diluted down by our moral fiber to simply mean not lying.  Even to lower the severity of lying itself, we have given our lies a ‘color’.  We value a ‘white lie’ as not as bad as regular lie.   
But is that all honesty really is? NO.  Before I start to explain what honesty really is, I’m just going to confess up front, I have not always been honest with everyone.  I’ve never claimed to be perfect, but I do know the One who is.  But it’s time we, myself included, took being honest seriously, so that we can be found trustworthy as Disciples of Christ.

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 regarding what he has taught the Thessalonian Church, “For our exhortation [speech] did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.“  We are called to continually speak and live with the intention to please God and not man.  If we cannot be found trustworthy through our honest speech, honest dealings, and honest actions, then who should believe us when we tell them about our risen savior that they have never seen?  A nonbeliever must trust first in the person delivering the message of Christ before they can trust in Christ himself.  If you cannot be known for being honest, there will be a problem in delivering the Gospel of Christ and the plan of salvation, which is our ultimate purpose in serving God.
If you look up honesty in the dictionary, you find it means much more than not telling a lie.  It means being honorable in your principles, your intentions, your actions, and being upright and fair.  It also means being sincere, frank, genuine, and unadulterated.  It is the freedom from deceit and fraud.   But the moral decay we live in has smoothed the rough edges of honesty to be something easier to achieve.  But that does not change what it is in God’s eyes, and it is Him we live to please.

Probably the one question most often given a lie in response is “Does this dress make my butt look big?” or variations of it.  Husbands and friends are often put on the spot with this question.  If I can offer a suggestion, even throw you a rope to get you out of this predicament, preface your answer with “Don’t ask me if you don’t want to know the truth.”  Withholding the truth to protect someone’s feelings is called flattery.  Yes, flattery is a form of dishonesty.  But we have such beautiful synonyms for this that it doesn’t sound like sin any more.  We call it “buttering them up”, or “candy-coating the truth”.  Doesn’t that just sound delicious? Oh satan has a way of making it look appealing, but God still calls it sin. 
Another way we fail to be honest is withholding the full truth.  We provide information that is true, but allow it to be misconceived by the hearer by not giving all the facts.  If you cause them to believe something that is not true, then you have not been honest.  I often think of this when I watch the American Idol hopefuls and their friends and parents say “I think she has a beautiful voice”, but they fail to say “but she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket!”  How many of these young people could have had their feelings spared if someone had just been completely honest with them!  If what you feel, and all the facts, doesn’t come out of your mouth, then you’re withholding the full truth.  There are times when you will need to tell the full truth, even when it is shocking, hurtful, and grievous. But what is said in love builds up the other person.  What is withheld tears them down, and isn’t love at all.   

Our actions have to be based on truth as well.  Giving a person a hug and a polite smile when you want to smack their head off isn’t honesty.  I’m not suggesting you do smack their head off by any means!  But what I am saying is that hiding this kind of grudge in your heart is dishonest.  You should address those feelings one to one with the person who has offended you.  1 John 2:9 says “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Romans 12:9 says Let love be without hypocrisy.” Pretending something that isn’t true is dishonesty.  How will the unbeliever watching you feel seeing you give the person they know you despise a hug, a handshake, or a smile of friendship?  You lose creditability because of your dishonesty.
Dishonest dealings can also defame our character as Christians.  I personally know of a person who claims to be a God-fearing Christian, yet once bought a car from an elderly lady for $200 that he knew would start once he reconnected the spark-plug wires.  Do I still see this person as a Christian?  Not at all!  This act was beyond dishonest, it was also stealing.  Let your dealings be fair, honest, and such that if you were dealing with Christ himself you would be able to walk away without guilt. 

Another way we are dishonest is not living up to what we say we will do.  This often happens with those closest to us.  If you tell your children you will do a certain thing, be willing to follow through.  If you tell your spouse you will take out the trash, follow through.  If you tell your friend you will help them with a chore, follow through.  It doesn’t matter if you didn’t make it a promise.  If you said it, do it.  Let your actions bring value to your words.
Two of the seven things God hates, which are listed in Proverbs 6:16-20, deal with dishonesty.  They are named as “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who breathes out lies”.  God HATES dishonesty!  Even satan’s nick-name being “The Father of Lies” shows God’s exacting feelings for it.  Colossians 3:9 relates it to the acts of an unsaved person and says, “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds”.  If dishonesty is linked to the “old man”, we have to let it die with the old man.  Being honest is an integral part of living the Christian life.    

Lord, allow your Holy Spirit to quicken us when we become dishonest, and push us to be a people of integrity in a world that allows us to be so much less!

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