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DOES IT PAY TO BE HONEST?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE
HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

31 JANUARY 1993

By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Job 1:8
        4:7-9
Proverbs 11:1
John 8:31-32
2 Corinthians 8:16-22
James 5:12

Does it pay to be honest?

I believe it does.

And I know that God desires us to be honest.

But sometimes, as with all good things, even honesty can be abused and misapplied.

Such was the case when Eliphaz spoke to Job, in 4:7-9, as we have been studying on Monday evenings.

7. "Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright destroyed?

8. "According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
And those who sow trouble harvest it.

9. "By the breath of God they perish,
And by the blast of His anger they come to an end."

Generally speaking, what Eliphaz is saying is true, but it is not true of Job; for God said about Job in 1:8

8. "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil."

Job was in a very depressed mental state when Eliphaz spoke to him.

Job had lost all his children, most of his servants and most of his possessions, and he was in physical pain.

And all Eliphaz is doing is adding to Job's depression; for Job knows who he is and who his children were.

The missing ingredients in Eliphaz's actions are love and compassion.

And even if Job had brought all this upon his own head, it is not Eliphaz's position, or our position in a similar situation, to drive more nails into someone's coffin.

Our function is to encourage such a person to seek the Lord our God, and to pray with that person; for our God is a loving and compassionate God who answers prayer, and forgives and heals.

This is how honesty pays when it comes forth with love and compassion.

So many people around us are dishonest that sometimes we have trouble distinguishing the truth from the lie; and probably that was the case in Job's and Eliphaz's day, too; thus, Eliphaz applied what he saw around him to Job's situation, for he thought Job must have been acting as a hypocrite.

Proverbs 11:1 tells us:

1. A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight.

Simply applying this passage to what Eliphaz said to Job would make sense, if this were true of Job but it wasn't.

Eliphaz saw so much dishonesty around him, and perhaps was also dishonest in some things himself, that he couldn't understand how Job could be truly upright.

Our court system does exactly the same thing today, because we don't really trust one another.

We make witnesses swear upon the Bible, as if that would make everything they say truthful.

And if that were really the case, we would not need to have laws concerning perjury.

Swearing by God or the temple or by anything else, to emphasize that one is telling the truth, is nothing new. It has been going on for thousands of years.

If we were basically honest, we would not need to do this, and we would understand what James is saying in 5:12.

12. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment.

For our part, if we believe in God, we are to be honest; and if we are honest, we don't have to swear that we are, for our life will reflect that honesty.

But the world around us doesn't understand this or our honesty, as Eliphaz didn't understand Job's.

Thus we may still be called upon from time to time to swear upon the Bible in a court case or elsewhere.

In such a case, we will just have to go along with society, until there are enough of us who tell the truth naturally and at all times.

And remember, if all people were honest, we would not need our police or our court system.

It does pay to be honest, even if the world around us doesn't understand.

Consistent honesty should be the hallmark of a Christian's character. In fact, it is one of the most effective ways to lead others to a life with God; because without honesty in our character, others won't believe what we say.

In 2 Corinthians 8:16-22, Paul writes about Christian character in Titus, and also in an unnamed brother, who perhaps was Luke.

Listen to what he says about these Christians, and also the effect that such honesty has on the mission of the Church.

16. But thanks be to God, who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus.

17. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord.

Titus has an urgent need to spread the gospel and strengthen this new church in Corinth.

And his character has prompted others as well.

18. And we have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches;

19. and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness,

20. taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift;

21. for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

Is this the kind of character we have?

Do others seek us out as ministers of God's Word, and do they follow our teaching?

Remember that we don't have to teach with words or from the front of the room. We can teach the truth of the gospel by example, our own personal example.

22. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent, because of his great confidence in you.

Perhaps the name of this brother was intentionally left out of the Scriptures. And I would suppose that a sister could also fulfill this role.

Why do I say this?

Because each and every one of us should be able to insert our own name here, also; and if we can't, then we need to do some maturing, for this is the basis of true Christian character.

It is as Jesus said in John 8:31-32

31. Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

32. and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Do you remember what we said about those who do not believe the truth because the truth is not in them?

This is exactly what Jesus is saying. Only those who were honest could believe that Jesus was telling the truth.

The others thought He was a con-man like they were.

Everything in and about Jesus' life here on earth spoke of the truth of God, yet most people didn't believe Him then, and most don't believe Him now.

But to those of us who are honest with ourselves and others, the gates of heaven have been opened wide, and we have been set free from all the evil of this world.

Yes, we have been set free, spiritually, but we also need to set ourselves free, physically from the pain, and suffering, and corruption of the earth around us that is being inflicted upon our fellow human beings, the other animals, and the environment in which we all live.

Therefore, we need to set ourselves free not only from actually doing these evil things ourselves, but from our partaking or participating in the products of such pain, suffering, and corruption.

Then and only then will we be truly free.

And because we are free, we also help others become free.

This is the only way we are going to get the church to grow.

Don't let others drag you down with their deceit.

Do what you know is right.

Do everything in an unconditionally loving manner.

It does pay to be honest and loving.

It pays with eternal life.

Amen.

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