What Would You Have Done?
IT WAS a holiday season of supposed cheer and goodwill. The place was a busy service station in a major city of the United States. During the early morning hours, thieves had robbed the station, leaving its two attendants bound. Scores of motorists eventually came along. Some laughed at the plight of the attendants, but did nothing to aid them. Before one customer had summoned the police, about a hundred motorists reportedly had helped themselves to gasoline and cigarettes without paying for a single thing. If given a similar opportunity to get something for nothing, what would you have done?
Consider another situation. In just a one-year period, a hotel in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, reported the loss (and probable theft) of 7,665 pieces of cutlery, as well as some 2,800 ashtrays. Faced with the possibility of helping yourself to such items, what would you have done?
Imagine the hotel owner’s surprise when he received a stolen ashtray by mail one day. A covering letter stated: “I am humbly returning your ashtray to you which I did steal from you several years ago. I am very sorry that I stole it and ask your forgiveness. The reason I am returning it is that I became one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses and I am trying to live according to the Bible now.”
What an individual will do about past errors must be decided personally. As it is, no human alive has a perfect record. “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah [God], who could stand?” asks the Bible. (Ps. 130:3) Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses in general endeavor to act honestly. Why?
These Christians are not trying to make a name for themselves by being honest. They are not seeking praise from others. Nor are they merely following the old adage “honesty is the best policy.” Definite benefits result from honesty. And there is a very important reason why these Christians are honest.
First, please consider certain benefits of honesty. The Bible says: “The one making unjust profit is bringing ostracism upon his own house.” (Prov. 15:27) A person who is greedy for dishonest gain, perhaps in the form of bribes, may believe that his course is beneficial. However, when others find out about the man’s dishonesty, they no longer trust him and do not want to have further dealings with him. In fact, he may be punished for his dishonest practices, and consequently his entire family may suffer for his wrongdoing.
On the other hand, people are inclined to trust a person known for his honesty. Honest practices have even resulted in material benefits. To illustrate: Years ago, a foreign student attending a college in the midwestern United States bought an automobile from a local car dealer. Some fifteen years passed. By then the former student was the only purchasing agent of the Iranian Contractors Association. How surprised that same auto dealer was when the former student placed with him a multimillion-dollar order for 1,100 trucks! Why? Because that onetime student felt that the dealer had treated him honestly years earlier. “It’s unbelievable,” said the dealer. “He was just an ordinary student and we sold him an automobile. When you cast your bread on the waters, you never know how it will come back to you.”
Honesty makes other people happy. It also has a way of rewarding the one who is honest. The car dealer just mentioned cited a Biblical expression when he spoke of casting bread on the waters. We read in Scripture: “Send out your bread upon the surface of the waters, for in the course of many days you will find it again.” (Eccl. 11:1) Yes, if we treat others with kindness, honesty and the like, they will probably respond in the same way. In other words, ‘we reap what we sow.’ (Gal. 6:7) Jesus Christ said: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.”—Luke 6:38.
Another benefit: The honest person is able to maintain a clear conscience. He does not have to ‘live a lie,’ only pretending to act with honesty. Nor does he have to worry about being caught in some dishonest practice. No sleepless nights for him on that account!
But suppose honesty never materially or physically seemed to benefit anyone practicing it. Those governing their lives by the Bible would still be honest. Why? Because they have a very important reason for acting honestly. They desire to please Jehovah God, and he requires honesty of all persons wishing to have his approval. This is made clear in God’s inspired Word. For instance, it says: “Two sorts of weights [one giving a person when buying an unfair advantage and another enabling him to cheat when selling] are something detestable to Jehovah, and a cheating pair of scales is not good.”—Prov. 20:23.
In view of such words, what do you think the faithful apostles of Jesus Christ would have done if given the opportunity to be dishonest? Well, note what the apostle Paul said: “We ‘make honest provision, not only in the sight of Jehovah, but also in the sight of men.’” (2 Cor. 8:21; compare Proverbs 3:4, Septuagint Version.) Obviously, the apostle would not resort to dishonest practices, but believed in working to “make honest provision.” But there is more to Christian honesty than that.
Paul also wrote: “We have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning, neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 4:2) Certainly, Paul was not devious in dealing with others. A devious person strays from a proper godly course. Individuals of that kind do not enjoy God’s favor, for the Scriptures say: “The devious person is a detestable thing to Jehovah, but His intimacy is with the upright ones.”—Prov. 3:32.
So, then, a person who desires to have a close, intimate relationship with the Most High God, Jehovah, will strive to conduct himself honestly in all situations. We know that the apostle Paul would have done that, because he wrote: “Carry on prayer for us, for we trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Heb. 13:18.