Faith and Family

Jones: In praise of honesty

By Lynn Jones

Several years ago, I read an interesting obituary in the Daily Journal. The first name of the person who died was “Honesty.” I do not know if this was his real name or a nickname, but either way you must be impressed.

The name was even more impressive because of a line in the obituary that told of one of his favorite pastimes. The line said, “He enjoyed buying and selling cattle and horses.” Guys who buy and sell cattle and horses are not noted as being paragons of honesty. They often make their living by shading the truth a little one way or the other.

For instance, I heard of two horse traders who were talking. One said to the other, “I need to sell that old horse of mine, but he limps one day, and then the next day he doesn’t. What do you think I should do?” His friend said, “Sell him on the day he doesn’t limp.”

Another horse salesman was approached by a man who said, “I would like to buy a horse, but I have never ridden a horse.” The horse salesman said, “That’s no problem. You say you’ve never ridden a horse? I’ve got the perfect match for you. It is a horse that’s never been ridden.”

Honesty is often such an elusive quality, but there has never been a time when honesty is more needed. We face many crises today, but the most critical crisis that we face is a crisis of character.

Jesus spoke to a group of people who played games with the truth. In the Jewish religious tradition of His day, there were binding and non-binding oaths. If you were an expert in the Jewish religious tradition, you would know which oaths were binding and which were non-binding. For instance, it was a binding oath when you swore by the money in the Temple in Jerusalem. But it was a non-binding oath if you swore by the Temple itself. By using this kind of knowledge, you could take advantage of a lot of people.

Instead of playing this kind of game with the truth, Jesus had a better way to offer. He said, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’” (Matt. 5:37).

It’s been said that “honesty pays,” but it doesn’t seem to pay enough for some folks. They want to add to their profit margin by playing fast and loose with the truth. I agree that “it pays to be honest.” I also agree with the statement that “honesty pays, but it is often slow pay.” The final accounting over life will be done by God. Ultimately, honesty will pay eternal dividends.

I never knew the man named “Honesty” whose obituary appeared in the Daily Journal but may his tribe increase. And may many others bear his name.

Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at:  

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