Wouldn’t it be wonderful if perfect honesty prevailed throughout the land? Well, God has not erased it from His word; it still declares: “Thou shalt not steal.”
If we are going to be true Christians, God expects us to live perfectly honest lives. No lying or stealing permitted. (Those two sins go together, by the way. If you lie, you will steal, and vice versa.)
There are different ways to steal. Stealing by force is called robbery. It happened to me one time when I was a young man. I felt cold steel in my back. I turned around and saw live bullets in the fellow’s revolver. It was easy to give him all my money.
A more subtle way to steal falls the lot of undisciplined people. Or should we more charitable say: people with poor memories? They borrow a tool, or they borrow a book, and then they forget? The wide awake Christian, who knows what it is to have the indwelling comforter, should have a decided advantage over the normal person that steals by carelessness.
The holy Spirit will not let you feel comfortable with something that does not belong to you. Jesus said that the comforter will bring things to our remembrance. (John 14:26)
I was preaching one time against the sin of stealing by carelessness, borrowing and not returning, when in a flash the Lord brought to my mind a book that I had from a brother, of a few years standing. I was humbled!
I immediately confessed to my congregation what the Lord just showed me. After the service was over, I went straight to my study and properly prepared the book to ship immediately to my friend.
A much more common mode in which thieves operate would be that of stealing by stealth. Are you aware that shoplifting in the United States of America hurts merchants to the multi-billion dollar level annually? It is sad, but true: The honest people have to pay for the sins of the wicket thieves.
And true Christians will be perfectly honest! If the cashier at the store gives you a few cents extra in change, you can no more keep that money than if it were a hundred dollars. I had an older preacher friend learn a very practical lesson in honesty from his father, that he never forgot. It was from the horse and buggy days.
My friend, at that time of the lesson, was a little boy. He had been inspecting his change and found that the merchant gave him 17 cents too much change. He told his boy, “Son, it is getting late in the day, go ahead and drive the team home and take care of the chores. I will walk back to the store and pay the owner his 17 cents and then I will on home.”
At that time that the father stopped the buggy, they were eight miles from home. So, in all, the father had to walk 20 miles all together to pay the owner his 17 cents, and then walk all the way home. Do we need to tell you that that man’s son grew up with the same perfect conviction of honestly as his father?
I wish that we did not have to say it, but it is true: “Tis the season for thieves to abound.” How many are cheating on their Income Tax Return? You do not have to live in an area very long before you find that there are some employers that are paying some of their employees “under the table.”
I do not know about you, my friend, but when I find out such, I cannot help losing respect for that business owner. I purposely avoid giving that man my business. Not only is the owner a cheat and a thief, but any of his employees that would agree to being “paid under the table, have to be unsavory characters themselves. Oh, the Bible is so true when it states: “The love of money is a root of all evil.”
You even have to be careful about using the official tax preparers. I have a good Christian friend that was in such work. He had a customer who complained to him that he was not saving as much money as the previous year. He said that his income was the same, the dependents were the same, and that nothing had changed.
My friend checked everything over, and found the previous year’s error. He had to tell his customer, “I am sorry, I cannot lie for you.”
I have another good Christian friend who has is own business, and he uses a CPA to do his taxes. He was visiting with his CPA, and they were going over his return and the CPA said, “Now, I am giving you a few extra deductions here.”
It was then that my friend stopped her and said, “Wait a minute, do I honestly deserve those deductions?”
The CPA tried to tell my friend that it is an easy thing to slip it in here, for all the types of businesses like his usually have these deductions. My friend being a true Christian, and only used to living in a perfectly upright manner, informed his CPA, “You only deduct what are my true and honest expenses. You are not doing me any favors by reporting anything false on my return.”
Attention waiters, waitresses, bellboys, barbers, valets, bartenders, pizza deliverers, and anyone else who receives tips! Are you stealing from the IRS? Are you reporting all of your tips with your income? If you have an acceptable Christian employment, and you receive tips from time to time, the fact that you will pay taxes on all of your tip income is just one test to prove the genuineness of your profession of faith.
Real Christians will not steal anything from the IRS. Sinners will! I am ashamed of my sinful days! Thank God, all of that guilt is washed away in the precious blood of Jesus!
Prior to my conversion, I had a night job as a bartender in a restaurant/bar. I received tips, a little over $10,000 in about three years time. As a sinner, I never paid one penny tax on those tips. I got saved, quit my bartending job, and the Lord showed me what to do.
I visited the IRS and made amended returns for those three years. The IRS is not noted for mercy. As a matter of fact, they started charging me over $2,800. Ah, but I got to leave the rank of thieves, and join the ranks of the “all-clear.”
It pays to be a genuine Christian. God’s minimum standard for victory is perfect honesty!
By Paul S. Handel
(Paul S. Handel is pastor of Seneca Church of God Holiness.)