Rev. L. Althouse
May 21, 2006
Background Scripture: Proverbs 11. Devotional Reading: Proverbs 10:27-32.
Recently, I got a renewal notice for a magazine to which I subscribe. Knowing that my renewal was not for another two years, I called for an explanation. I was told that this “magazine payment” service that had sent me the notice has no connection to the magazine, that, if I paid them, the magazine would get only a portion of the amount paid and that this was an attempt to defraud people who don’t read the fine print. Since then, I have continued to get notices like these for almost every magazine to which I subscribe.
It seems to me that this is indicative of a growing virus of dishonesty and deception that seems to infect every segment and strata of our society. Almost monthly I find errors on our bills. I wouldn’t be so suspicious except that I’ve noticed the errors defy the law of averages and are never in my favor. Buying software for my computer, I asked the salesman why the maker just didn’t reduce the price, instead of giving a mail-in rebate. “Well, because they know that most people won’t go to all that trouble.”
Expecting the worst
Accounting audits are used to hide the financial facts, applicants falsify their resumes, we assume that products and services will not live up to advertising claims and even religious organizations will sometimes deceive us for what they hold to be “a good cause.” The tragedy is that we do not expect and demand a higher standard of truth.
There are a number of issues in Proverbs 11, but I’m going to focus on the one in 11:1 (see also 16:11, 20:10 & 23, Leviticus 19:35,36 and Deuteron-omy 25:13-15): “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.”
Instead of “balance,” “weight” or “scale” we could just as rightly say: a doctored balance sheet, false IRS return, deceptive advertisement, political platform, foreign policy statement, bogus insurance claim, and so forth.
Yes, I know that deceit, fraud and dishonesty were not invented in the 21st century, but it seems that we have become regressively more indifferent to these values issues. There may be room for debate on our different positions on homosexuality, abortion, warfare, and church vs. state, but the Bible doesn’t allow us wiggle room when it comes to cheating: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (11:3)
Even if we are not habitual liars or even occasional deceivers (a more subtle form of lying), we share their guilt if we aid, support or even tolerate their dishonesty. A party compatriot complained about a politician figure with a fierce reputation for his no-holds-barred style of operation: “He’s an unconscionable liar.”
“Yeah,” said the other man, “but he’s our unconscionable liar.”
John Bennett defines integrity as the harmony between a person’s inner purposes and his or her outer actions. When we profess cream, but live skim milk, we are not whole persons and we pay some kind of physical, mental or spiritual price for this deception of others that begins with self-deception. William E. Hocking long ago observed “We cannot have a sound society unless we have a sufficient number of men who cannot be bought.” What would he say today of politicians and officials (Democrats and Republicans) who are increasingly available to the highest bidder?
Asked why he had not taken the opportunity to demean the reputation of an opponent, a young Chinese Christian replied: “Because I would have had to live with a liar for the rest of my life.”
This farm news was published in the May 17, 2006 issue of Farm World.