A few years back I was outside of a local 7/11, waiting for my wife who was at the food place next door grabbing us some dinner. As I was watching the people go by, I turned to look in the store. A junior higher caught my attention. He was average build, but was wearing a jacket that was too large in the middle of a heat wave. I thought he might have stepped in to cool off, but he was acting strange. He was shuffling around the store like he was shopping, but all the while out of the corner of his eyes, he was looking for the clerk. He would look at the cold drinks, open the door, and causally look quickly to the checkout counter. He walked to the back of the store appearing to look through the chips, but really watching the clerk. By now I was enthralled in the drama, trying to figure out what this kid was doing? Then it dawned on me, just as the clerk slipped into the back office and the kid moved rapidly to the candy aisle. I slyly walked into the store to get a better view, and sure enough, I saw the kid open his jacket and stash a handful of candy bars in an inner pocket.
He threw the jacket closed as I rounded the aisle, concerned that I had noticed. I pretended to be unaware. As he was eyeing more merchandise, I edged closer to him, and blocking his view of the counter, our eyes met. I smiled and said, “I assume you will be paying for the candy that is in your coat pocket?” He tried to mask his guilt with saying, “What are you talking about?” I just pointed to his inner pocket and said, “I saw you.” He retorted, “What do you care?” “It’s wrong to take something and not pay for it. That is called stealing. If you put it back, I won’t say anything.” I just stood there and prayed he would make the right choice. I could tell he was wrestling inside with what to do.
It made me wonder if this kid had been taught or modeled honesty or integrity of character. The Bible is very clear.
Leviticus 19:11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.
Proverbs 10:2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 21:3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Honestly and integrity are important qualities of character. They are crucial in relationships, in business, in school. Honesty and integrity are important as we interact with our neighbors and with our families and even our government and God. For we want to be trusted, held in high esteem, grow in rapport, and be considered responsible and reliable. Dishonesty and a lack of integrity unravels character.
Proverbs 11:3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
Proverbs 20:7 The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him!
The challenge is to be honest even if no one is looking. It’s not only wrong if we get caught. Relativistic morality never works and true integrity means the practice of honesty, always.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
King David of the Ancient Israel put it this way…
Psalm 101:1-4 I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music. 2 I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; 3 I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. 4 A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
Honesty and integrity are truly the best policy. That is what I was praying for this kid as we stood toe to toe. After a moment he opened his jacket in defeat, placed the items back and walked out of the store. A win for honesty! I hope it helped him.
Honesty and good character are important and church is a great place to learn of good character. If you are not already connected to a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our branch churches in either Los Alamitos or Garden Grove this week. Our website has all the information you would need. www.cypresschurch.net .
Let’s practice honesty even if no one is looking.
Seeking to live with integrity with you,