How Honest Are You?
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Romans 12:17, Living Bible
Your bank’s cash machine has gone berserk, giving out 20’s as if they were 5’s, yet your receipt shows no sign of overpayment. You immediately know that something is wrong. You asked for a withdrawal of $100, but it gave you $400. What do you do? Would you a) Use the emergency telephone to alert the bank. b) Take the money and run, or c) Call your friends and tell them to get back there too, as you go to the end of the line for a second run at the machine yourself?
If you chose the first option, you are in a decided minority judging from an unintentional experiment in ethics which took place at a Manhattan bank branch. You see a careless employee loaded a canister of $20 bills into the slot for $5 bills which meant that it paid off better than the lottery‑‑at least for a short while.
Although the cash‑machine panel had a 24‑hour telephone for reporting problems outside of bank hours, the bank received only one call, two at the most, according to bank spokesman, Robert Nolan. Instead, a long line of eager cash seekers formed at the machine. “I called everybody I knew,” said one man who chose not to give his name for fear of prosecution.
Surely no Christians stood in that line. Certainly, no one could have been to worship earlier on that Sunday and stood there ripping off the bank later that afternoon. Or could there have been? Is it possible that some who were born‑again Christians ignored any fleeting thoughts about honesty and integrity, and scooped up the cash and ran with it?
How deep does the Christian commitment to ethics and honesty go when there is something to be had for nothing, or apparently so?
A survey found that there is little difference in the behavior of born‑again Christians before and after their conversion experiences. As reported by a Christian news agency, “…the study found that behavior in each of three major categories‑‑use of illegal drugs, driving while intoxicated, and marital infidelity‑‑actually deteriorated after the born‑again experience for many people.” A spokesman for the survey said, “We’ve reached a point where there is little or no correlation between what we say and what we do. Accountability is lacking, confrontation is lacking, and we are `marketing’ salvation in such a way that discipleship is simply not occurring.”
Long ago, when Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he penned some strong words as he said, “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). From what Paul wrote, it was obvious that those who had placed their faith in Jesus Christ hadn’t been much concerned about honesty, but Paul had to remind them that their commitment to Jesus Christ carried with it a commitment to honesty as well.
Before we are too hard on those who stood in the line to get a pay‑off at a ratio of 4 to 1, perhaps it would be wise to ask, “Do you tell the grocery clerk who gives you too much change? Or do you think, `If she’s dumb enough to give me back too much money, that’s her tough luck‑‑not mine!'”? Is honesty a commitment or a comment?
In case you are wondering if they got away with it, the answer is No! The bank said that they would be able to tell who withdrew money and would automatically charge their accounts, but what struck me as being strange is that of the dozens if not hundreds who stood in line to rip off the bank, no more than two felt any responsibility for taking what they knew did not belong to them and had no right to take. Well, did Scripture say long ago, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Times really haven’t changed.
Resource reading: Romans 12:1-17.