Do Honesty and Hard Work Really Pay?
IN THIS world, dishonesty has gone to seed. But the Bible allows for no exceptions when it comes to honesty. It says: “The LORD hates people who use dishonest weights and measures.” (Prov. 20:10, Today’s English Version) While acknowledging that dishonest people may prosper materially, the Bible warns against being deceived by this into thinking that lawlessness pays. (Ps. 73:3-28) According to the Scriptures, honesty and industriousness are essential for a happy, contented life. And actual experience has repeatedly demonstrated that honest, hard work does put bread on one’s table.
Honesty in Weighing
A family man from Western Australia comments: “My wife and I owned an abattoir and butchering business. We had no problems in obtaining supplies of stock for slaughter. People were pleased to deal with us, for they knew that we were honest in weighing their livestock. Even when other abattoirs were finding it difficult to buy stock and had to transport animals some 300 miles (480 kilometers), we were still able to buy locally. During this time we were supplying meat to many local butchers in the nearby town of Geraldton. As we were making these deliveries after trading hours, we were given keys to all the shops so that we could enter and store the meat in freezers.
“When we sold the business in 1975, the new owners did not uphold our standard of honesty. By the end of two years, they were in serious financial difficulties. The local farmers would not sell to them, and they had to travel far afield to obtain stock. Eventually they had to dispose of their business. The local farmers have since remarked that it was a sad day for them when we sold our business, because they appreciated having honest people to whom they could sell their livestock.”
Similarly, a market scene in Accra, Ghana, reveals that honesty is rewarding. Unknown to the market women, a farmer from Agona Swedru weighed his vegetables before bringing them to market. Then, as usual, he allowed the market women to do the weighing before they bought his products. But he noted that just one of them was honest. At another time he permitted only the honest woman to weigh the vegetables for herself. From then on she was given this priority.
This infuriated the other women, for they had to wait until the farmer was ready to weigh the vegetables himself instead of letting them do it. They accused him of showing favoritism. His answer was, in effect: ‘She is honest, but you are dishonest. So there should be a difference in my way of dealing with you.’
Other Important Bible Principles
The application of still other Bible principles may mean the difference between eating or not eating. Among these principles are the following: “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work.” (Eph. 4:28) “The one working with a slack hand will be of little means.” (Prov. 10:4) “The soul of the sluggard craves in vain, but the diligent soul is amply satisfied.”—Prov. 13:4, NAB.
Thieves Do Suffer
Arthur of Saskatchewan, Canada, is one man who learned the value of such Scriptural principles the hard way. Cradling a cup of coffee in his hands, he says:
“I cannot help but be grateful for the tremendous change in my life that started just four years ago. Out of the first 36 years of my life, I spent a total of 15 behind bars. And at the end of that period, what did I have economically, materially and spiritually? Nothing!
“Now, after the past four years of working diligently in harmony with Bible principles, what can I say? Well, Jehovah has really blessed me. I have a home, a regular job, a fine wife and a little son whom I love with a father’s pride. Yet it isn’t always easy. The past dies slowly. Ever before me is such Bible advice as ‘Let none of you suffer as . . . a thief’ and ‘Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work.’ Yes, one can suffer as a thief. I did, although I did not fully appreciate it at the time.”—1 Pet. 4:15; Eph. 4:28.
“Once a friend and I,” Arthur continues, “broke into a clothing store and took about $10,000 worth of clothing to sell. We got only $1,500 for these stolen goods. Before the day was over, I had wasted it all in drinking and other activities and didn’t even have enough taxi fare to get home.” What did he do? Arthur adds: “I gave the taxi driver my watch—the one my own mother had given me—as security until I paid the $3 I owed. I never did claim that watch. Just how low in self-esteem or in feeling for others can one get? Very low, as you can see. Why, once when I needed money, I even stole my mother’s television set!”
What about thieves who escape being apprehended by the authorities? Are they really getting by with their lawlessness? Take the case of fair-haired Alfie of the British Isles. For five years he lived by stealing. But what were the results? “The more I stole,” he comments, “the more I lost all sense of values. I received no pleasure from the possessions that I had because they were so easily obtained. Once, in an argument with my mother over a £5 [$9, U.S.] note, I tore it into little pieces. It seemed silly to me that we should be arguing over something so trivial. If anyone gave me a present, perhaps worth just a pound or a few pounds, it meant nothing to me. A life of crime means having tons of money one day, but then no food the next! This is because, if I came down to my last £20 [$37, U.S.], I would just go out and spend it on something I didn’t need, feeling that I would soon go out and steal some more. Then I would be broke for a while and depend on my family to provide for me.”
Honesty and Industriousness Bring Success
How different it is with those who are honest and industrious workers! That this course does put bread on the table is clearly manifest in the operation of a merchandising service that began in Toronto, Canada. About 15 years ago, this business had a very modest beginning. The first employee was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Soon a second Witness was added. The influence of these two Witnesses brought to the company the practice that the Scriptures recommend: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Heb. 13:18) As the reputation of this business establishment became more widely known, the number of customers increased. The business expanded rapidly and spread to all 10 Canadian provinces. The industriousness and honesty of the workers kept expenses down and increased profits. A few years ago the company was purchased by a large international corporation, and that corporation’s desire was to retain the same employees. The business employs some 80 people and operates out of several warehouses and offices in all Canada.
Honesty and industriousness have also helped Diamond, of Nigeria, to put bread on his table. His job was to load goods into lorries, to be transported to the company’s stores or to distribution centers. Noticing Diamond’s conscientiousness, his supervisor assigned him to a more responsible job as “motor boy.” This involved traveling on the lorry to deliver consignments to customers. Unlike the former motor boy, Diamond refused to cooperate with the driver in stealing some of the goods. Because of his honesty, Diamond was eventually transferred to the store, where he was put in charge of clearing merchandise, and pilfering came to a stop. His employers put so much trust in him that, whenever there were transactions involving large sums of money, this responsibility would be given to Diamond instead of to his immediate senior. A remarkable fact about this honest man is that he had never received formal education. But his faithful adherence to Bible principles is of greater value in the eyes of his employers. In fact, Diamond occupies a position of trust and responsibility above that of his more educated colleagues. He alone signs the documents authorizing the removal of goods from the store.
Honesty Opens Opportunities for Work
Often a reputation for honesty and industriousness opens work opportunities that would otherwise be closed. In Australia, Thursday Island has one of the highest unemployment figures in the country. People available for employment abound. Yet the manager of a bank there sought out a particular family to do the cleaning work. Why? They were known by all to be honest people. In Sweden, firms that have few openings are pleased to hire Jehovah’s Witnesses because of their good reputation as workers. The employment manager of a company with 1,400 employees even asked whether it would be possible to advertise for employees in the principal journal used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Watchtower. Even in northern Sweden, where jobs are scarce, unemployment is virtually unknown among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Throughout the world, the honest, conscientious worker is definitely preferred. Many people are willing to pay for quality work. In some areas, dependable painters, electricians, mechanics and other tradesmen are at times so busy that they cannot accept certain jobs for lack of time.
Refusing to Work—Unsatisfying and Harmful
While some persons choose to live at the expense of the government, their life of seeming ease is not really rewarding. Frequently they are bored and spend money unwisely on gambling, alcoholic beverages and the like. Persons who refuse to take available jobs and continue to draw compensation from the State often become nervous and pessimistic. They tend to develop greater laziness and sloppy habits. Some begin to feel that other things should also be given to them. Many people who do not have to work for their money lose self-respect and show very little appreciation for their own possessions and the property of others.
The tragic circumstances that may befall a person who refuses to do hard work are illustrated in the case of a young man who was employed in cocoa production. For some years he worked energetically. But, then, this man and his workmates began to feel that it was beneath their dignity to carry buckets to water nursed cocoa seedlings. The young man eventually resigned from his job and began to gamble. His friends recommended that he go back to his former employment, but he refused to do so. One day, when he was gambling, a quarrel erupted. While struggling, the young man stabbed one of his friends and is now serving a prison sentence. How much better it would have been for him to continue working!
We should never underestimate the value of building up a fine reputation as an honest, reliable and industrious worker. Even in lands where good jobs are scarce and the annual per capita income is very low, the honest, industrious worker fares much better than others. He may not have much, but he usually has the basic necessities and the satisfaction of eating food that he himself has earned. Yes, conformity to the Bible’s guidelines about honesty and industriousness can put bread on our table and safeguard us from losing our self-respect.
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