One evening I received a phone call I will never forget. It was from Allen Hitchcock.
“You won’t believe what just happened to me!” he said.
“I went to my local gas station and pumped $20 worth of gas. When I asked for a receipt, the attendant made the receipt for $25. When I pointed out this mistake, the attendant replied, ‘Oh, just turn in the receipt to your company, and you’ll make a fast five bucks. After all, a lot of the mailmen do that.’”
Like Allen, all of us—the executive, the employee and the homemaker—have to make daily decisions about whether or not to handle money honestly.
Do you tell the cashier at the grocery store when you receive too much change? Have you ever tried to sell something and been tempted not to tell the whole truth because you might lose a sale?
These decisions are made more difficult because everyone around us seems to be dishonest. For example, employee theft in the workplace is around $50 billion a year.
We live in an age of “relative honesty” in which people formulate their own standards of honesty which change with the circumstances.
The Bible speaks of a similar time which was a turbulent period in Israel’s history. “Everyone did whatever he wanted to—whatever seemed right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
Relative honesty contrasts sharply with the standard we find in Scripture. God demands absolute honesty.
Proverbs 20:23 reads, “The Lord loathes all cheating and dishonesty.” And Proverbs 12:22 states, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.” Leviticus 19:11 says, “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.”
Unfortunately, all of us are dishonest from time to time; but once we recognize that we have acted dishonestly, we need to do three things:
- Restore our fellowship with God.
Anytime we sin, our fellowship with the Lord is broken. This needs to be restored. In 1 John 1:9 we read how: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We must agree with God that our dishonesty is sin and then accept His gracious forgiveness so we can again enjoy His fellowship.
- Restore our fellowship with people.
We need to confess our dishonesty to the person we offended. “Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16).
This has been difficult for me. After years of avoiding this step, I have started confessing my dishonesty to others.
A person’s lack of financial prosperity may be a consequence of violating this principle. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13).
- Restore any dishonestly acquired property.
If we have acquired anything dishonestly, we must return it to its rightful owner. “Then it shall be, when he sins and becomes guilty, that he shall restore what he took by robbery . . . or anything about which he swore falsely; he shall make restitution for it in full, and add to it one-fifth more. He shall give it to the one to whom it belongs” (Leviticus 6:4-5).
Restitution is a tangible expression of repentance and an effort to correct a wrong. If it’s not possible for restitution to be made to the injured party, then the property should be given to the Lord. Numbers 5:8 teaches, “But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution . . . must go to the Lord for the priest.”
I believe we seriously underestimate the impact that one honest person can have. Read Jeremiah 5:1 carefully: “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now, and take note . . . if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I [the Lord] will pardon her.”
The destiny of an entire city hung in the balance. Its future depended upon there being one absolutely honest person.
You may not receive the acclaim of the media, the business community or politicians, but in God’s economy, your commitment to honesty can have a massive influence on your city.
Will you be that person for your community?
Howard is the founder of Compass—finances God’s way and author of five books and six small group studies. He graduated from Cornell University and served two and a half years as a naval officer. But after a business partner challenged him to study the Bible to discover what God teaches about handling money, Howard’s life was profoundly changed. Since beginning in ministry, he has served as a full-time volunteer and has led more than 75 small groups. Howard married Beverly in 1971, and had two children and four grandchildren before she went Home to be with the Lord. In 2019, Howard remarried. He and his wife, Lynn, reside in Central Florida and Charleston, South Carolina.