Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Honesty

Integrity & Consistency

There’s an old story about a farmer selling a horse. The horse was stubborn and lazy and rarely helpful when work needed to be done. A potential buyer asked, “Is he a good workhorse?” The farmer replied, “It’d do your heart good to see that horse work!”

The buyer purchased the horse and within a few weeks realized it was stubborn and lazy and useless when work needed to be done. He went back to the farmer and demanded a refund. “You said it was a good workhorse!” The farmer replied, “No, I said it’d do your heart good to see it work.” 

Nobody likes to be cheated by unscrupulous vendors. Proverbs 20.10 says, Differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the LORD.”

The proverb is set in the ancient marketplace where simple mechanical devices were used for measuring. It would have been relatively easy for a vendor to use a measuring stick or a weight or a bowl that looked normal but was just a bit off, and always to his advantage. In our modern era of full disclosure, de facto standards, government standards, industry standards, and bar codes and scanners, it’s easy to forget that cheaters still look for ways to get ahead, even at the store. This proverb condemns the practice, both then and now.

Two things are noteworthy. One is the strength of the condemnation. This kind of dishonesty is not only foolishness, not only wickedness, it’s an abomination to the Lord. This is a reminder that of all the virtues we humans should possess, honesty and integrity are at the very top. To be less than honest is to fail in the most fundamental of human ways. 

Second, it applies not only to the marketplace, but also to the workplace. Honesty on the job has plenty of applications. Do we say one thing to the boss and another to our coworkers? Do we fudge on our expense accounts? Do we make allowances for the workers we like, but not for the ones we dislike? Do we sponge ideas off others but take credit for them ourselves? 

The proverb covers a lot of territory, in the marketplace, the workplace, the home, and other areas of life as well.

The wise worker practices meticulous integrity in the workplace. The wise person practices meticulous integrity in all his or her relationships. Anything less is dishonest and ultimately incurs God’s wrath.

Motivation & Honesty

As a preacher, I frequently deal in the currency of motivation. Part of what I do is attempt to keep fellow Christians and church members motivated to do the work of the kingdom.

Some Christians are highly motivated and rarely need help from me. Others are motivated only to the extent that there’s something in it for them, some tangible reward, usually in the form of trumpet-blowing. Some seem to struggle with motivation at the most basic level. They seem unable or unwilling to do the most basic forms of service. I may push, pull, beg, pressure, and howl, but nothing happens.

Regarding motivation, Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Our Lord never pleaded, He never cajoled, He never entrapped; He simply spoke the sternest words mortal ears ever listened to, and then left it alone.”

Chambers’ comments raise an interesting question: How motivated am I to do what’s right? What really moves me to serve Jesus? Do I really care? I should be careful how I answer. Because, if I must constantly be goaded, pressed, embarrassed, pushed, or shoved before I’m willing to act, it would seem that doing right isn’t my highest priority.

Too many Christians fall into this category. We say we’re followers of Jesus, but we seem awfully casual about the whole thing. We say we want to do right, that we want to serve, but we act only when we’re pushed to the limit.

This may provide some insight into Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Luke 8.4-8). In the parable, a farmer sows seed on different kinds of soil and, consequently, gets different yields from each soil. Some of the soil is packed down and won’t grow anything. Some of it is shallow, with a layer of rock underneath. Some of it full of thorns. Some of it is good, clean soil. 

When Jesus explained the parable, he said that “the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8.15). The honest heart is the one who takes the Word of God and simply obeys it. There’s no resistance, no argument, and no excuse.

In other words, honesty is the linchpin of the machinery of spiritual motivation. A dishonest person will never have sufficient motivation to act upon the commands of God. 

If you’re struggling with your motivation to serve God, the first thing to look at is your heart. Are you motivated for the right reasons? Bottom line: Are you honest?

Math & Morals

Dr. Charles Madison Sarratt (1888-1978, longtime mathematics professor and administrator at Vanderbilt University) told his students each year, “Today I am giving you two examinations, one in trigonometry, and the other in honesty. I hope you will pass both. If you must fail one, fail trigonometry. There are many good people in the world who can’t pass trigonometry, but there are no good people in the world who cannot pass the examination of honesty.”

Dr. Sarratt understood that our morals permeate every aspect of life, and that honesty is the very cornerstone of character. Negatively, he was discouraging cheating on exams. Positively, he was promoting honesty in everything.

It’s been a long time since I had to take a math test, but I’m tested in the honesty department every day. I suspect all of us are. 

Every day we’re tempted, even invited, to cut corners, to cheat, to do less than our best, to lie a little here or there, to take credit for someone else’s work. Every day we prove our honesty.

It may be on a project at work. It may be while we’re shopping. It may be in a conversation with a spouse or friend. It may be at the gym. It may be while we’re playing games or sports with others. It may be in the break room. It may be with teachers or students. It may be at church.

How can we pass the honesty exam with consistency?

First, we must be honest with God. In the Parable of the Sower Jesus described a farmer scattering seed by hand in a field. The seed fell on various kinds of soil, some good, some bad. When Jesus explained the parable, he said, “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8.15). How we respond to God and his word reveals if we’re honest.

Second, we must be honest with ourselves. Paul warned, “Let no man deceive himself.” (1 Corinthians 3.18). Have you ever lied to yourself about your weight? About your exercise habits? About your Amazon spending? About your abilities? Self-honesty is important, because if we lie to ourselves, we’ll lie to anyone.

Third, we must be honest with others. Paul said we’re to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4.15). Love is the seasoning of our communication. But the communication itself must be true, wholesome, and healthy. Lies and deceit are worse than junk food, they’re poison to the soul.

Every day we take an honesty exam. Every day we either grow in honesty or we shrink. May God help us grow in truth and honesty. 

Workplace Consistency

Because of widespread immigration, colonial America was a muddled mass of measurements. By one estimate, over 100,000 units of measure existed at the same time. For example:

  • Land could be measured in Scottish miles, Irish acres, Rhineland Ruthin (rods). 
  • Fabric in New York was purchased using the English ell (about a yard), but sold by the Flemish ell (about half a yard). 
  • The Pennsylvania bushel was wide, shallow, and heaped, while the Philadelphia bushel was deep, narrow, and level. 
  • Tobacco was sold in hogsheads, which was about 1000 pounds of tobacco packed into a 145 gallom barrel. However, the New York hogshead was smaller than the Virginia hogshead, which was smaller than the Maryland hogshead. 
  • Alcohol was measured by the brewer’s hogshead, which was about 54 gallons of beer, but about 63 gallons of wine. The measurement also varied by location.
  • Volume was typically measured in quarts, gallons, and bushels, each one having as many as eight different amounts.

Situations like these are why governments, businesses, and consumers all benefit from the use of standards. It’s why businesses implement policies and procedures: to ensure consistent quality in every facet of the workplace.

Proverbs 20.10 says, “Differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the LORD.”

Regardless of how primitive or sophisticated our business practices may be, there will always be cheaters. There will always be scoundrels who take advantage of others by taking advantage of the system. There were scams in biblical times, in colonial times, and in modern times. Proverbs 20.10 condemns dishonesty in the marketplace, both then and now.

Two things are noteworthy about Proverbs 20.10. First is the strength of the condemnation. Dishonesty is not only foolish, it’s wicked, it’s an abomination to the Lord. This is a reminder that of all the virtues we should possess, honesty and integrity are the most important. 

Second, this proverb isn’t limited to merchants. It also applies to the workplace in more general ways. Honesty on the job has plenty of applications. Do we work harder when the boss is nearby? Do we say one thing to the manager and another to our coworkers? Are we accurate when we clock in and clock out? Do we treat our favorite coworkers better than we treat our not-so-favorite ones? 

Proverbs 20.10 teaches us that wisdom demands honesty. Anything less may incur God’s wrath.

Honest to God

Are you honest to God?

Most of us have heard the phrase, “Honest to God!” It’s like saying, “I swear to God.” It’s an oath. An oath is a solemn promise that calls God as a witness. Even though people abuse oaths, calling God to witness the truthfulness of something is a valid biblical concept, and we see examples in the Bible.

In this post, I don’t want to talk about oaths, but rather about truthfulness. Specifically, I want to talk about truthfulness with God when we pray to him. Are we honest to God when we pray?

For many people, prayer is just polite religious chitchat, the kind of small talk you have with a total stranger. We don’t reveal anything deep or personal or sensitive. We’re afraid God will think less of us, or he’ll be shocked or angry, or he’ll terminate our relationship because of something we said.

However, some prayers in the Bible aren’t polite. And they were spoken by God’s most faithful people:

  • Moses’ complaints about Israel in the wilderness – Exodus 17.4; Numbers 11.10-15
  • Elijah’s complaint about being the only faithful Israelite left – 1 Kings 19.1-18
  • Job’s bitter complaints about his suffering – Job 3
  • David’s prayers for vengeance against his enemies – e.g., Psalm 58.6-11
  • Jeremiah’s complaints to God about his ministry – Jeremiah 4.10; 15.10; 20.7, 14-18

Why could these men pray in this way? Because they had an intimate relationship with God!

Intense prayer is like intense conversation: it’s the outgrowth of intimacy. You don’t talk like this to a stranger – you only talk like this to a friend, to someone whom you know and trust, and who knows you. That’s God! He knows our weaknesses but loves us anyway – “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103.13-14).

Grace is God’s side of things; honesty, truthfulness, and integrity are our responsibility:

  • Are you angry (toward others or toward God)? TELL HIM!
  • Are your worried? TELL HIM! (See 1 Peter 5.6-7)
  • Are you bitter and struggling with hatred? TELL HIM!
  • Are you caught in greed or gossip or lust or pride? TELL HIM!

AND ask for his help. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139.23-24).

Today and every day, be honest to God.