A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble (Proverbs 17:20 NIV).
Is honesty always appropriate?
“What do you think of my new dress” Lisa asked. “I’m wearing it to my job interview tomorrow.
Mandy hesitated. The dress seemed totally inappropriate for a job interview. Should she risk hurting her friend’s feelings and dampen her enthusiasm for the all-important interview?
“Brings out the color of your eyes,” Mandy finally said. Privately she thought, And, it also makes you look like a middle-aged woman trying to pass herself off as a teenager.
But armed with Mandy’s half-truth, Lisa wore the dress to the interview. She was turned down for the job because she had dressed unprofessionally.
Janet finally arrived home exhausted from a day of shopping and running errands. When she checked her receipt, she discovered the store clerk had given Janet an extra ten dollars in change. Janet sighed, feeling too tired to return to the store. “Well if these people can’t do their job right, why should I worry?”
The clerk was fired the next day for coming up short on her register.
Both Mandy and Janet felt justified in their responses, acting on what seemed right at the moment, rather than filtering righteousness through God’s word. And their misplaced judgment impacted Lisa and the clerk negatively.
The life of the Greek philosopher, Diogenes, resembled that of the prophet Jeremiah, both noted for their dramatic illustrations of their beliefs. Diogenes was perhaps most remembered for walking the streets with a lantern in search of an honest man. Diogenes preached that the value of virtue, including honesty, was found in action rather than in theory. He used behavioral examples to demonstrate the wrongs of what he called a corrupt and confused society.
God often called Jeremiah to engage in exaggerated or unusual behavior in order to illustrate both God’s condemnation and love for Israel, a society that had lost its sense of virtue.
With shades of Abraham’s search for righteousness in Sodom and Gomorrah, in one such command, God tells Jeremiah to “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” (Jeremiah 5:1 NIV).
I note with interest the parallel failings of Diogenes and Jeremiah’s worlds to our current culture. We are indeed living in a “confused” society. One needs only to listen to a news broadcast for five minutes then turn to another station and hear the exact opposite representation of the same news segment. We ask ourselves, “What is the truth? Is there an honest person left on the face of the earth?”
Rather than give up in defeat, perhaps, though difficult, God holds us to a different standard, one that requires honest dealings with others at all times and in all circumstances. So much so, he has given us a guide, the Holy Spirit, who stands ready to teach what is truth … truth given by Grace and evidenced in action.
“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace” (2 Corinthians 1:12 NIV).
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