On a recent trip to the mall, my mother went from store to store, buying cosmetics and trying on jewelry. As she was leaving the shopping center and heading to her car, she looked down at her wrist and noticed that she was still wearing one of the bracelets she had tried on, but hadn't paid for. She was horrified. Even though she had already done more walking than she could comfortably do that day, she headed back to the store and returned the bracelet. She said she felt stupid telling the saleslady what she did, but the woman responded graciously, and thanked my mom for returning the item. As my mother told me her story, and joked about what a failure she'd make as a thief, I thanked and praised God for blessing me with such a godly parent.
The Bible says: "It is a wonderful heritage to have an honest father." (Proverbs 20:7 TLB) I've been doubly blessed, because I was raised by two godly parents. I can still remember the time I went shopping with my dad, and I began picking up straight pins that had fallen from opened merchandise, onto the floor. I was only about eight years old at the time, and I was pretty sure that those stray pins were going to end up in the garbage anyway. Nevertheless, I got a lecture from my father about stealing that has stayed with me to this day.
The Bible has a lot to say about honesty, because our God is a God of truth. Proverbs 14:2 (MSG) says: "An honest life shows respect for God; a degenerate life is a slap in His face." When we are dishonest, we are showing our lack of love and respect for God. Even if we succeed in hiding our dishonesty from others, the Lord is painfully aware of it. Jesus said, "Unless you are honest in small matters, you won't be in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities." (Luke 16:10 TLB) The Lord longs to bless us, promote us, and increase us. But He can't do that when we are not keeping one of His most basic commands, which says, "You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:15 NIV) God's Word goes so far as to state that "thieves" will "not inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
One of the things I value most about living an honest life is that it enables us to enjoy a sense of peace that can't be attained any other way. Scripture says: "He who walks uprightly walks securely, but he who takes a crooked way shall be found out and punished." (Proverbs 10:9 AMP) I like the way the Message Bible puts it: "Honesty lives confident and carefree, but Shifty is sure to be exposed." When we lie, cheat, or steal, we have to keep looking over our shoulder, living constantly in fear that we'll be found out, and will have to pay the price. Living an honest life brings freedom.
The apostle Paul wrote, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." (Ephesians 4:28 NIV) I once heard a godly man talking about this verse, and he said that God's plan for us was not to work for a living, but to work for giving. We're not called to work hard only for our own sakes, but we're called to be productive so that we can bless others with our increase, too. And the Lord cares very much how we conduct our business, and what kind of employees we are. His Word says, "God cares about honesty in the workplace. Your business is His business." (Proverbs 16:11 MSG)
My mother could have easily kept that bracelet she walked off with that day. But she chose not to, because she knows that, "Ill-gotten gain brings no lasting happiness," but "right living does." (Proverbs 10:2 TLB) You can't put a price on the peace and joy that are found in living a life of honesty and integrity before God. Let me leave you with a sobering thought from the Word of God today--"Dishonest gain will never last, so why take the risk?" (Proverbs 21:6 TLB)
Prayer: Lord, when I'm tempted to take or keep something that doesn't belong to me, remind me of the high value You place on honesty. Make me a hard worker, and richly reward my efforts, so that I'll always have a surplus to share with those in need. Thank You that as I live for You daily, You will make me a person of integrity!
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