CHRISTADELPHIAN BIBLE POSTAL COURSE No. 50
HONESTY BEFORE GOD AND
HIS SON JESUS CHRIST
Reading: Acts 5
In this lesson I want to look carefully at the things we do each day. Some will be for God and for Jesus, like preaching to others or helping the sick and elderly. Some will be the care and direction of our families or those we are responsible for. All other actions will concern people who we meet each day, in working, in travelling or in whatever each day might bring.
Honesty is about obeying the rules. Above all God’s rules but also the rules of the society we live in. Sometimes, in times of war and disaster, human rules are disregarded but the follower of Jesus does not give in to such temptations for the rules given by God and so carefully explained by Jesus and his apostles always come first in his or her life. In an earlier lesson we have already looked at the teaching in Psalm 34 verse 7. These are wonderful words and a great comfort in terrible times, but those words work two ways. If the angels of God are close to people of faith in their daily lives, then they are also there to listen and watch when we are being crafty and dishonest, telling lies or taking anything that is not ours.
Come with me now to the words of Paul on this subject. Let us see what he has to say. First then to the letter to Romans chapter 12 verse 17. Paul is concerned how non-Christians see the man or woman who does follow Jesus. Remember that preaching is not just what we say to others it is also about what we do and the way that we do it. Paul continues in chapter 13 verses 12 to 14 by talking about the works of darkness; the things men do dishonestly thinking they will not be seen. Jesus used this same idea when speaking to Nicodemus. You will find this in the gospel of John, chapter 3 verses 19 to 21. The objective of the true follower of Jesus is to do all things so that they can be viewed in the full light and seen by anyone, by God and other men. This is quite a clear teaching isn’t it? In his letter to Philippians chapter 4 verse 8, Paul advises us to make certain things a rule in our lives. Things such as truth, honesty, justice, purity, beauty and things of good report. These things will show to others that we are really following Jesus and will at the same time be a powerful method of preaching. When we do speak to our neighbours about Jesus and his gospel of the
Kingdom, they will be more ready to believe what we say.
It is astonishing to read in Paul’s and Peter’s letters advice on how we should behave towards those who rule over us. Governments differ around the world, some are good some are corrupt, some have a fair system of justice others are harsh and cruel yet the apostles advised obedience to all earthly powers. Just look at Paul’s first letter to Timothy chapter 2 verses 1 to 3. These words were written at a time when the Roman Empire was actively persecuting Christians. It must have been a difficult teaching to accept and put into practice but it is there for us also to follow. Jesus taught his disciples to pay their taxes to the Roman Emperor and, in his words, gave us one extra thing to remember. Let us look at Jesus’ words recorded by Matthew in chapter 22 verses 17 to 22.
The instruction is to give to the society we live in, honesty in the payment of taxes and duties, but to God our love and our whole lives in his service.
When we looked at the advice Paul gave to the Philippian Christians, did you notice the phrase “Whatsoever things are of good report”? Things that were generally agreed by all as being acceptable for followers of Jesus to do. Things where it was not just one person’s judgement but the general judgement of the more reliable members of the church. There is another similar example where the general opinion of all the local disciples was used. It is in Acts chapter 6 verse 3. It was important at that time to choose the best men available. They were to become deacons, leaders and guides to others. Perhaps it was a good choice that was made because we only have information about two of these men and they turned out to be good servants of the church, capable administrators and powerful preachers. The lesson from the New Testament is often repeated ‘Follow the teachings of Jesus and the careful instructions and explanations of his apostles’. Despite this Biblical advice, we do naturally tend to rely on friends and acquaintances for human advice.
Have you ever thought what it is about another person that leads you to take their advice? Perhaps they are elderly, experienced, wise or honest. Let us look at two examples of men who gave advice. The first we find in Numbers chapter 13. On the border of the Promised Land, Moses had sent in twelve spies ahead of the whole nation of Israel. If you read verses 26 to 33, you can see that the reports of the spies differed. Ten came back full of fear and doubt and just two full of faith and the certainty that with God’s help nothing was impossible. Read on now into chapter 14 and look especially at Caleb’s and Joshua’s words in verses 6 to 9. Who do you think the people believed? Unfortunately for them, the ten pessimists. God’s anger at their choice shows us which of the twelve were honest, reliable and men of faith. It was Caleb and Joshua. Their reward was to cross into the Promised Land with their families whereas all those who lacked faith died in the wilderness.
Another example of friends who gave advice is found in the book of Job. Job had lost everything he possessed. Sitting on the town rubbish dump he was visited by three friends who gave advice; but it was not good advice and in the final chapter we read that God condemned the three men for dishonest advice. Look at Job 42 verses 7 to 10. It was just as well for Job that he ignored this human advice and clung to his faith in God. What is important to realise is that the three men did try to help Job and they spent a lot of time trying to console him in his misery, chapter 2 verse 13. Their problem was that they did not use God’s principles in their advice to Job. Instead, they used human, fallible wisdom. That is the difference we need to look for when we take advice from friends.
Some features about honesty seem very small and trivial, but with God even the very small things we do are important. Look now at the prophecy of Micah chapter 6 verse 8. Some examples are given in verses 10 and 11. Just imagine shopkeepers with scales that are deliberately adjusted to give less than the customer has paid for. The shopkeeper may think he or she is smart and clever but God hates this hidden wickedness. However, you may not be a shopkeeper so how do these words apply to you? In our lives we do things for others, possibly we have employment, in both of these instances we can put in our best effort or only a little. We can earn or not earn our wages. It is the same when we do things for God; we can give much or just a little of our time and effort. The deceit occurs when we pretend to other Christians that we are giving all we have. When we are given responsibility for others or for financial matters, we must remember this lesson. No matter how much we may be tempted to misuse that responsibility God will know what we are thinking and what we may be doing in secret. It may be possible to hide our deeds from other men but we cannot hide them from God. There is a very sharp lesson on this subject in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 5 verses 1 to 11. Here a man and his wife tried to lie to God and to the apostles. The price they paid for that deceit was severe. You can see that this is exactly the same wickedness as having dishonest weights or scales in the market place and we read in Micah that God hates this. The case of Ananias and Sapphira must have been so bad that immediate action was essential for this is the only case in the New Testament where the power of the Holy Spirit was used to take away life. On all other occasions it was used to heal and even restore life to those who had died.
When Jesus allowed himself to be taken by the soldiers, beaten and then crucified he gave everything for us. He did this so that men and women might have the way opened for them to be saved from the extinction of death. There was no deceit in Jesus; he was always totally honest and fair to all who came to him. In his sermon on Christian living, he gave us some special standards to aim for in our response to him. Look at Luke’s gospel chapter 6 and read verses 35 to 38. The final words in verse 38 remind us of the need to give honestly if we wish to receive the inheritance of the Kingdom.