But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. John 3:21
What would you do in this situation? You are a repairman who has been called to replace the water heater in the home of an old gentleman who is 88 years of age and cannot go downstairs where the water heater is located. When you examine the water heater, however, you discover that only a minor problem with a setting is causing the water heater to malfunction. A new unit is an unnecessary expense. He will never know that the old one could be easily repaired, and you’ll make many times more money. After all, he did call and asked for the unit to be replaced. Would you make the repair, replace the unit, or ask him to indicate just what he wanted done?
Can a business person succeed and still be honest? Some say, not. But once you start bending the truth, where do you stop? At the point your golf partner complains, at the point where your husband or wife finds out, at the point where the government finds out, or back at the place where you know God will know? Paul instructed, “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21 KJV); but you say, “He didn’t have to do business in the environment in which I try to make a living.”
There are times when, unquestionably, the honest person is at a disadvantage: the student who chooses not to be dishonest on his exam, who is penalized because he doesn’t do what others are doing. I am thinking of the sad letter which I received from a minor government official in India, who became a Christian and then stopped accepting the petty bribes which were part of the system of graft. Not only was his income reduced, but when it came time for a dowry for his daughter, he had little money which he could send with her as a wedding gift.
When Paul addressed the issue of honesty in our lives, he said that there is something which goes beyond getting caught. The dishonest person violates his conscience and destroys part of the very fabric of his soul. Here’s how he put it: “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:6,7).
A certain carpenter worked for many years for a contractor, and during the years of his employment, he was treated fairly but never felt that he received the compensation which he really deserved. Finally, the contractor told the aging carpenter, “There is one more house which I want you to build.” The carpenter accepted the task but felt that since this house was the last one that the contractor was going to build, he’d cut corners where it would not show and pocket the money. After all, he reasoned, the contractor will never know, and “I really deserve better than I have received.”
That was exactly what he did, too. Where something would not be obvious, he used an inferior grade of materials but passed the cost of better materials on to the contractor.
Finally, the house was completed, and after the final inspection, the contractor met with the carpenter and handed him the keys. “Here,” he said, “this is yours. It is how I want to reward you for a lifetime of faithful service.” Whether we are honest or dishonest, sooner or later what we do comes back to reward us.
By the way, if you were the repairman who was called to install a new water heater, what would you have done?
Resource Reading: Matthew 5:1-16