Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Only Policy

“To be completely honest with you, . . .”
“The truth of the matter is . . .”
“Quite honestly, . . .”

Have you noticed how often people use those phrases? Hopefully, using such a phrase is more of a habit than an indication that everything else that person says is either patently false or at least an exaggeration of some kind. Should we just not believe anything someone says unless they first preface it with a declaration of ‘truthfulness?’
Whether someone says “honestly” before a statement or not, every day I find myself being bombarded by lies, dishonesty, and implications that are intended to get me to reach a false conclusion without actually stating a falsehood. And it’s usually about stuff that doesn’t even matter!
Every day we tell people: "Nice to see you" (but it wasn’t); "Sorry I missed your call" (even though it was intentional); "I got stuck in traffic" (Ha!); "Our server was down" (meaning – “I just didn’t get around to your project”); "The check's in the mail" (but don’t hold your breath); "I've got another call beeping in” (because I’m done here); "No, it doesn’t make your butt look big” (that extra bowl of ice cream is what makes your butt look big!).
People who consider themselves “honest” don’t seem to even think twice about some of the things they say, even though they have to know those things are not true. And there are all kinds of supposed “justifications” for being dishonest – it’s easier, we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, it keeps us out of trouble, it makes us look better. But since it’s just a “little white lie,” it doesn’t really matter, right?

It would appear to me that most people take the exact opposite approach of the Bible when it comes to ‘honesty.’ Most people seem to think that their honesty is shown in the ‘big stuff’ – they don’t cheat on their wife; they haven’t embezzled money from their employer; they haven’t faked a worker’s comp claim; and they haven’t been caught up in an FBI sting operation.
But are people more “honest” in those situations because of their ‘moral compass,’ or because they’re afraid to get caught, people may see them, such actions are more detectable, the stakes are higher, or maybe they’re afraid God will smite them for it? In other words, do they do the ‘right thing’ because it’s the ‘right thing,’ or do they do the ‘right thing’ because they’re afraid to do the ‘wrong thing?’
Most people seem to think that with those ‘little white lies’ it’s no big deal even if they get caught – “no harm, no foul,” right? But with the ‘big stuff’ - you’ve gotta be careful – it gets risky and costly.
But, that’s not the approach the Bible takes. Instead, the Bible teaches us: If you're honest in small things, you'll be honest in big things. (Luke 16:10, MSG)
That tells me that even if I appear to be ‘squeaky clean’ with regard to the ‘big stuff,’ when I am not truthful in the smallest of things I am shown to be dishonest – big time, through-and-through. That’s completely contrary to most things in life which are more difficult the bigger and more important they are. Instead, honesty is really more difficult in the little stuff – the stuff we think doesn’t matter – than with the big stuff (where fear of getting caught may keep us ‘honest’).
Another really difficult part of “being honest in the small things” is that it doesn’t apply to just the actual telling of bald-faced lies. Telling a cook that she’s “really out-done herself” on a meal you can hardly choke down leaves a false impression that is dishonest. And a lie is a lie regardless of the best intentions (not to offend, to save feelings, etc.).
The Bible doesn’t give us license to lash out or hurt feelings in the name of “truth” or “honesty.” But it does tell us that the One who really matters will judge our trustworthiness for big things (in His kingdom) by how trustworthy we are in small things. So, Who are we really seeking to please?
Trustworthiness in the big stuff will take care of itself IF we are really trustworthy in the small stuff. It’s simple, but not easy.
We have all heard that ‘honesty is the best policy,’ but I tend to think that honesty should be the only policy. With God’s help, we can live in a way that makes honesty a lifestyle, rather than a choice.

The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful.

(Proverbs 12:22)

Craig Hollingsworth

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