Yesterday, we talked about having discernment, and a lot of that came back to honesty. You don’t want to start endorsing things that turn out to be wrong. You want to be cautious.
Today, in Proverbs 25, we’re going to take on honesty from a slightly different perspective.
Pro 25:14 Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.
I really like this. Basically, don’t plan to be good at something if you really aren’t back about it. Why? You are compared to clouds and wind without rain.
In other words, there is no actual result. When you see stormy clouds and feel the wind picked up, you know a storm is coming. However, if the storm never actually comes, and the rain never actually falls, you wonder what happened.
It is kind of like us. If we start boasting about things that really aren’t true, eventually people are going to find out, and people are going to wonder what happened. Maybe they would be willing to grant you the benefit of the doubt for one day. Maybe it was just a bad day. However, eventually people will find out that you were making up the story all along.
Now think about the implications of that on our Christian testimony. As Christians, we try to live our lives in a certain way. I think that even though there are some debates about how specifically we ought to live, I don’t think anybody would argue that honesty is very important.
What then happens if we are Christians caught being dishonest? It damages our testimony which can potentially damage the position that we are witnessing from. We definitely don’t want that to happen.
In Esther 2, king Ahasuerus decided that he needed a new queen since the old one Vashti would not do everything that he demanded. As a result, he basically brought a bunch of women in to decide who would be his next queen, and Esther, our star lady, was one of those women.
The interesting part was that Esther was a Jew, and that surely would not have been a popular thing to say in the court. She never would have had a chance at becoming queen.
Est 2:10 Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.
As it turned out, she quickly became the favorite of the king, and it was not very long until he decided that she needed to become his queen. However, the king still had no idea that she was actually Jewish.
Est 2:17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Est 2:20 Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.
This is kind of an interesting thought because it makes me wonder if there are ever circumstances where we should hide away some part of our character.
For example, would it ever be right for a Christian to hide part of his or her belief system if it did allow for the ultimate potential for gain for other Christians?
I’m thinking about China hypothetically. Obviously, the house church movement is powerful, but there is also widespread persecution. Identifying with that movement can lead to severe consequences that are potentially lethal.
In that situation, does it make sense for a Christian to not lie about their beliefs (because that is an obvious violation of the 10 Commandments) but rather not disclose them because it could damage some greater mission? Imagine if a Christian official was able to rise into a high position in China like Esther. That person would then have the influence to make life much easier on our brothers and sisters over there. That would be a great thing, but that official might not ever have the opportunity to get into that position of power if he or she had been identified with the house church movement to begin with.
If the question never comes up, is it wrong to simply not mention faith?
As an American Christian, I can say that many of the churches I have heard from are very evangelistic. It is part of our duty as a result of our faith to go out and preach to the entire world. I believe that. If you look at the early church, they were doing that all the time even though many of them did indeed die or at least spent time in prison for what they were saying. They are often times the examples we look up to and use as our justification for doing anything for God. From that perspective, it seems that we really should always be reaching out about Christianity regardless of the consequences.
On the other hand, I have to wonder about someone like Jesus. Until the age of 30, He was not actively engaged in His ministry. In a way, He wasn’t letting people know that part of His identity yet. Again, I’m sure that if somebody came up and asked Him whether or not He was the Messiah, He certainly would not have lied to them, but He simply did not mention that fact until the time was right. On that level then, if this is sort of similar to something that Jesus did Himself, I have a hard time saying that it was wrong for Esther to do.
As you can tell, I certainly have mixed feelings.
What do all of you think? Are there circumstances where omission is okay particularly if there is long-term benefit and no lying (an obvious sin) involved?
I would love to get a little discussion going about this one if people have some opinions to share.
The Israelites were right. In Ezra 6, the archives were searched, and, just like they had written in the previous chapter, there was a decree that gave them permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
The evidence came out, and it clearly supported Israel.
Ezr 6:6 Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence:
Ezr 6:7 Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.
Ezr 6:8 Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.
Ezr 6:9 And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:
Ezr 6:10 That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.
Basically, they got what they originally wanted and were able to build the Temple. On top of all of that, they were given even more. Whenever they needed the sacrifice, it would be provided to them.
Their honesty paid off for them. Similarly, honesty will make a difference in our lives as well. I am definitely not saying that by being honest we will get financial gain like the Israelites did. However, we will get the other thing that Israel received.
We will gain the trust of those around us. Because they were honest, they became more credible, and they were actually allowed to exist outside of the tight captivity they had been in.
As Christians, this should be important to us. We are called to be witnesses for God, and the only way we can do that effectively is if people are willing to trust us. They need to be able to trust that we are really bringing a message that will be worth their time.
The way to gain that trust is to practice what we preach. We have to make sure that we are living our testimony.
1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
At the beginning of 2 Samuel 19, David is still distraught over the death of his son. Even though Absalom was technically an enemy, yesterday we talked about how David had so much unconditional love for his son regardless of what happened.
I can understand why he was still upset, but not everyone thought that all of this grief was necessary.
2Sa 19:5 And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines;
2Sa 19:6 In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.
2Sa 19:7 Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.
Joab as you will recall was the guy who actually killed Absalom, so I can understand why it was a little bit difficult for him to have any sympathy in this situation.
He was basically telling David that the people were not entirely thrilled that he seemed more upset about a victory than he would have been about a hypothetical defeat.
You might not necessarily agree with his message and have you delivered it, but I think that we can learn something from Joab here.
I have read about many leaders who complained that they are surrounded by people who only say what they want to hear. For example, if I was running a business, I don’t think I’d be very happy if everyone around me always said that I was always doing everything right.
You want someone honest. You want someone who will tell you whether or not you have entirely lost your mind. Joab was that type of advisor.
Of course, we always need to be sure that what we say is always for the benefit of the other person in love, but we do need to be honest. David took his advice and regained his composure, so I guess it was pretty convincing.
1 Samuel chapter 3 is a pretty well-known passage, and I think that there is a lot that we can learn from Eli in particular through this chapter.
First things first, God started talking to Samuel, but he did not recognize the voice right away. Eventually, Eli recognized that it was truly God who was calling the young boy and told him to respond the next time he heard the voice.
That is certainly one important thing to keep in mind. Eli was perceptive. He was able to recognize when God was truly speaking and guide his young protégé.
Unfortunately, God told Samuel news that was not so great for Eli.
1Sa 3:11 And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.
1Sa 3:12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.
1Sa 3:13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
1Sa 3:14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.
This refers back to the end of chapter 2 which we read yesterday where God told Eli that both of his children would die in one day.
After hearing this, Samuel was afraid to tell Eli. However, Eli assured him that he undoubtedly wanted to know. When Samuel told him, I believe that Eli responded in just about the only way he could.
1Sa 3:18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.
I think that this is one of the most important things we can learn from Eli’s example. He understood that God would do what was ultimately best. I think that that is one of the things we need to keep in perspective as well. Sometimes, it is hard to understand what is going on in the world. However, if we can remember that God orchestrates everything, it helps us keep our spirits up.
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
It is so interesting how the Bible is so theoretical yet so practical at the same time. In Deuteronomy 25, it seems as if God realizes that people will often times cheat for any advantage they can.
Deu 25:13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.
Deu 25:14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.
Deu 25:15 But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
God wants us to treat people fairly. If we agreed to sell someone 10 yards of fabric, our yardsticks better be 36 inches long. We can’t try to shave a little off and give our neighbor is 35.5 inches. That wouldn’t be ethical.
Even if the other person doesn’t notice that we did this, if we act with the intent to cheat them out of something that should rightfully be theirs, it is our problem.
To tie this to a slightly larger theme, think about what Jesus told the people about paying their taxes to the Roman Empire.
Mar 12:17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.
Again, we are supposed to give to the people who own what we have. Paying taxes is part of our obligation as citizens, so we need to be honest with them. Even more importantly though, we need to give God what He deserves.
God essentially deserves everything in our lives, so that it is tall order. However keeping with this theme of this post, we need to be fair with everyone. That includes God.
Sometimes, the Bible is incredibly straightforward. For instance, the first two verses of Numbers chapter 30 don’t leave much room for negotiation.
Num 30:1 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.
Num 30:2 If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.
That’s pretty much it. If you commit to doing something, you’re not allowed to break your word.
I think that promises and vows are thrown around a bit too lightly today. People say what other people want to hear, but when they decide that they don’t want to do whatever it is anymore, they bail out.
God wants us to deal honestly with Him and each other.
Dishonesty has led many people into problems, and I have to think of Peter denying Jesus as probably the ultimate example of what this verse is talking about.
Mar 14:66 And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:
Mar 14:67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.
Mar 14:68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
Mar 14:69 And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.
Mar 14:70 And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.
Mar 14:71 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
Mar 14:72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
He continued arguing that he did not know who Jesus was and because he was afraid of what might happen to him, but when he realized that he had essentially fulfilled an unpleasant prophecy, he was incredibly upset.
Although I am sure that we have all been guilty of this on some level, it makes life so much easier when we just deal straightly with people. Not only does God command our honesty, but other people appreciate it as well.