Jeremiah 5:1“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.”
Luke 16:10 – “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
Proverbs 11:3 “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”
What does it mean to live an honest life? For me, it means that when you act, you act with integrity and truth. You do what you say and you say what you do. Honesty within our lives leads to freedom. Honesty is not just about telling the truth all the time. Honesty is about being real with yourself about who you are, what you want and what it takes to live your most authentic life with yourself and others. It is about making choices in your life that allow you to live with integrity. It allows us to take responsibility for what we do every day. Honesty is of utmost importance in human relations. Every social activity, every human experience is obstructed when people are not honest with one another. The honesty that I am talking about is not just truth-telling; it is truth-living.
An interesting story occurs in 2 Kings 12. Joash was King of Judah. He noticed that the temple was in need of repair. The mortar was falling out between the bricks. The walls were crumbling. Water damage was evident all around. The gold and bronze was tarnished. There was trash and debris everywhere. It was not being repaired because the priests were not paying the workers, so the workers were not working. The King Joash, then decided to stop paying the priest. So, he starts a fundraising program. He places a chest at the entrance door of the temple with an opening in the top so people could drop in their offerings for the temple repairs. When the chest became full the money was given to the building superintendents so they could pay the carpenters, stonemasons, quarrymen, timber dealers, and stone merchants, and to buy the needed materials. What do you think these building superintendents did with the money? Like any profession, dishonest building superintendents given the honest superintendents a bad name. Some pocket the money. Others use the honest to pay old debts. Still others mismanage the funds trying to keep several projects going at once. But how did the Joash’s building superintendents handle the money? Look at verse fifteen: “No accounting was required from the men who received the money to pay those doing the work, since they worked with integrity” (2 Kings 12:15). The NIV states, “. . . they acted with complete honesty”. That is the kind of people I want around me in all of my dealings? Don’t you?
Proverbs 12:19 says, “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue, only a moment”. I remember a story at this point. Four students arrived late to take a test. “And what is your excuse?” inquired the teacher. “We had a flat tire,” they all said in unison. Without getting upset, the teacher asked the students to take their seats. “The test is but one question,” said the teacher. “Which tire went flat?” What do you think they might have answered? Honesty is still, and will always be, the best policy. Honesty makes you complete. To be honest is to be real, genuine, authentic, and bona fide. To be dishonest is to be partly forged, fake, or fictitious. Honesty expresses a disposition to live in the light. Dishonesty seeks shade, cover, or concealment. It is a disposition to live partly in the dark. A person of integrity is a whole person, or a complete person. And in the end that is what we want. For in the end they don’t say at your funeral or write on your tombstone how much money you made or your property, but what kind of person you were.
We should more importantly, practice honesty because it pleases God. As children of the light, we should walk in the light of truthfulness and faithfulness. The Proverb says, “Lying lips are detestable to the LORD, but faithful people are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22). As followers of Christ, we are not honest because society tells us to be honest. Our society is not honest and even rewards those who get away with dishonesty. It is evident in our government, our politicians, our judicial system, our businesses, our schools. The pervasive thought is if you can get away with it, more power to you. In other words, if you don’t get caught, then dishonesty is okay. As followers of Christ, we need to be honest because we abide by a different standard and a different guide. Our society says tolerance is the norm; Christianity says truth is the norm. Our society says there is no right and wrong, everything is subjective; Christianity says there is right and wrong, there are absolutes. Society reduces truth to personal preference as long as you are sincere; Christianity says truth is truth regardless of your preference; you can be sincere, but sincerely wrong. Honesty is best developed when taken seriously. Honesty is best cultivated, like most virtues, when exercised and developed in harmony with the other virtues. The more honesty is exercised, the more it becomes a settled disposition. We need to take it seriously. Take recognition of the fact that honesty is a fundamental ingredient for human exchange; it is a fundamental element for integrity; it is a fundamental requirement for followers of Christ.
Being honest is not always easy. As Christians, we know how easy it is to fall into sin. Therefore, you need to work at being truthful. We live in a society that accepts lying as the norm. Advertisers lie to sell products, politicians lie in order to get votes, lawyers twist the truth to confuse the jury, the press/media lies to increase ratings, some preachers lie to get the message across and the list goes on. But against all of this stands the Commandment in Exodus 20:16 which says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Now this commandment against lying is based on one of the most fundamental principles of all, the sanctity of truth. Remember when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate? Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Everybody assumed that questions had a genuine answer. But in our age of relativism, everyone is asking, “Is there any truth? Are there any absolutes? Is anybody being honest?” Well, it is the purpose of this message to encourage you to be people of integrity; to tell the truth all the time.
Cain murdered Abel and then he lied saying that he didn’t know where he was. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then he lied to her husband and covered it up. Ananias and Sapphira lied to cover up their greed. Peter lied to cover up his cowardice. Lying covers over sin in our lives. God want us to confront it and repent of it. As Christians, how do we live with integrity? God has chosen us to be Christ’s representatives on earth and calls us to live a life worthy of that calling. People are watching our life. Can they see Christ in us? Is there enough evidence in our life to convict us of being Christian? How well are we doing as Christ’s representatives? I must admit, living a life based on integrity can be hard to do or even find in today’s world. It doesn’t seem to be a high priority for many.
There was a pastor who lived in a town, who pastored a church in the downtown area. He had to travel back and forth the church and his home on a bus each day, One Sunday morning he preached on honesty. On Monday, following his usual routine, he got on a bus to go back home. Since he didn’t have the right change for the conductor when he boarded the bus, he handed him a hundred rupee note. The conductor gave him his change and the pastor put it in his pocket. Then while traveling along, he counted his change and found that the conductor had given him too much money back as balance after the ticket charge. His first reaction was to think how wonderful it was for the Lord to provide this extra money. However, he soon realized this was not the honest thing to do, so he told the conductor when he got off the bus that he had made a mistake and given him too much money and returned the same. The conductor quickly said, “No, I did not make a mistake, I heard your message on honesty at your church yesterday and just decided to test you out.” We need to live an honest life- the world is testing you out.
In conclusion, I would challenge you to deliberately live an honest life. Would you do that? That is for the rest of your life refuse to lie, deceive, or shade the truth. Say what you have to say, not what you ought to say. Make your word your bond. Match you walk with your talk. Keep the promises you make. This effort will not be easy. It will require your total effort and concentration. Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote like this, “Many of you have already found out, and others will find out in the course of their lives, that truth evades us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit.” Allow me to close with another story about a child and honesty. A young lady was soaking up the sun’s rays on a beach when a little boy in his swimming costumes, carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, “Do you believe in God?” She was surprised by the question but replied, “Why, yes, I do.” Then he asked her: “Do you go to church every Sunday?” Again, her answer was “Yes!” Then he asked: “Do you read your Bible and pray every day?” Again, she said “Yes!” But by now her curiosity was very much aroused. At last the boy sighed and said, with obvious relief, “Will you hold my drink while I go swimming?” Likewise, God is looking for some honest people. People in whom He can trust. People who will be honest in all their dealings. People whose walk matches their talk. People who keep the promises they make. People whose word is their bond. Will you be that person? If we live honestly and morally, we can have an unnoticed yet effective spiritual influence on people around us. We are called to be faithful, not famous. Honesty and integrity honor the Lord.