Honesty: Why’s it so Complicated?

The person who does what is right and speaks the truth will live. He rejects getting rich by extortion and refuses to take bribes. He refuses to listen to those who are plotting murders. He doesn't look for evil things to do. This person will live on high. His stronghold will be a fortress made of rock. He will have plenty of food and a dependable supply of water. (Isaiah 33:15-16 GW)

How did honesty get so complicated? When I grew up it was real simple, it seemed like my parents believed anything any adult said about me. If the neighbors called…I did it. If the teacher called…I did it. When the principal called…I’d get it! I couldn’t get away with anything!

I remember the rules when I first got my license. I’d bug my parents about letting me drive by myself. They let me go to Southgate Superette. My mom was like, “If you drive the speed limit, that will take you 11 minutes to get there and 11 minutes back. Give or take a little time in the store, you’ve got 30 minutes to be back home.” Long before I said the Scout Law, the one that said: “A Scout is TRUSTWORTHY…” a little voice in my head sounded a bit like my mom and dad said, “yep, that’s right, you’d better be.” (BTW the '75 Mustang was my first car! Anyone remember that car?;) )

In this year of the Professional, the Preacher, the Politician, and the Performer, translated Michael Vick, Ted Haggard, Larry Craig and Lyndsay Lohan, dishonesty seems to be the issue at the forefront of character flaws. I think what makes us angry and what disturbes us, is the denial of the truth: I didn't do it! Only to come back an admit it and own the lie for what it is: DISHONESTY.
In recording the life of King Hezekiah, the writer of 2 Kings said, Hezekiah trusted the LORD God of Israel. No king among all the kings of Judah was like Hezekiah. (2Ki 18:5). This was a king who faced the onslaught of the Assyrian Army led by King Sennacherib. After the Assyrian Army laid waste to most of Judah, Sennacherib came to Jerusalem. In his journal Sennacherib wrote, “…Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage.., "

Sennacherib offered Hezekiah opportunity after opportunity even appealing to the people, always speaking degrading things about God. And in the midst of this comes the prophet Isaiah, the voice of God to the Jewish people: “The person who does what is right and speaks the truth will live.”

Sennacherib sent a message, "Tell King Hezekiah of Judah, 'Don't let the god whom you trust deceive you by saying that Jerusalem will not be put under the control of the king of Assyria. You heard what the kings of Assyria did to all countries, how they totally destroyed them. Will you be rescued? (2 Kings 19:10-11 GW)” To which Hezekiah responded by taking, “…the letters from the messengers, read them, and went to the LORD'S temple. He spread them out in front of the LORD and prayed to the LORD…(2 Kngs 19:14-15 GW).”

What happened? “It happened that night. The LORD'S angel went out and killed 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian camp. When the Judeans got up early in the morning, they saw all the corpses. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left. He went home to Nineveh and stayed there. 2 Kings 19:35-36 GW)”

To say that honesty is complicated is probably misleading. In the book of Proverbs, the writer says it is more like, dishonesty which is complicated. Remove dishonesty from your mouth. Put deceptive speech far away from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead and your sight be focused in front of you. Carefully walk a straight path, and all your ways will be secure. Do not lean to the right or to the left. Walk away from evil. (Proverbs 4:24-27 GW). The warning is that honesty is one path but that dishonesty has more than one course and runs surprisingly close and parallel to honesty.

Do you consider yourself an honest person? How important is it to you that your friends be honest? So how many lies do you get to tell before you are a liar? Luke records how three time Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, lied about knowing Jesus. I know we say he “denied” Jesus but that seems to cover the real word: he lied. Peter was blatantly dishonest. Contrast Peter with Jesus who ignored the lies told at his trial but when asked, “are you the Christ? Are you God’s Son?” replied, “You got it.” Hezekiah had the opportunity to run with those “who plot murders and evil” but did what was right and spoke truth.

It was easy after the first lie for Peter to tell the second. The more we practice dishonesty, it gets easier to do, but the more complicated it gets. That perennial giver of deep wisdom, Homer Simpson said, “It takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen.” And so what happens when the one who listens tells the lie to another? As lies and dishonesty spread, it gets more and more complicated.

The words of the song “Complicated,” express clearly, "When you fall and you crawl and you break and you take what you get and you turn it into honesty..." Each time in our lives we find our dishonesty, our lack of integrity, our disingeniousness is busted and we fall, the opportunity for returning to the path of honesty is before us. I’m not talking about when you’re caught – I’m talking about the moment when our hearts are heavy. When our head drops and we fall to our knees.

"Two men went into the temple courtyard to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed, 'God, I thank you that I'm not like other people! I'm not a robber or a dishonest person. I haven't committed adultery. I'm not even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my entire income.' "But the tax collector was standing at a distance. He wouldn't even look up to heaven. Instead, he became very upset, and he said, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' [Jesus said] "I can guarantee that this tax collector went home with God's approval, but the Pharisee didn't." (Luke 18:10-14 GW)

That story turns religion on its head. Jesus isn’t, wasn’t and won’t be interested in what we did, do or will do. Jesus is interested in us coming to trust in what He has done. Coming to trust in Jesus who said He was the way, the truth and the life. Honesty, means there is “no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). No one here gets to condemn anyone – there is no condemnation. But there is grace to fall and break.

Survey says: more personal work is being done on the internet at work than business. Are we honest in our dealings with customers? How about business clients and competition?

-Community. It may not be a cell phone but it could be car keys or a purse. It maybe a five dollar bill lying next to a car door. Did we get extra change back from the clerk? Did you give a fair tip?

-Home. Pulling out all the “skeletons” in your closet may not be the best thing (even though Halloween is near). Are we being honest with family time? How much time is spent in front of the TV during football season? What about where money is being spent?

-God. In our lives, when we respond by trusting in the One who said He was the way, the TRUTH and the life, in the little things, we receive grace. Grace to fall and to break. Grace to take what we get and turn it into honesty.


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