HONESTY (Lesson 1)

This month's topic is honesty. We're going to look at all of the different ways that people are dishonest and see what the bible says about it. We're going to talk about lying, cheating, and stealing. But tonight we wanted to start by focusing on stealing because it seems as though most people have been dishonest in this way at one time or another.

Let's think for a moment on the Ten Commandments. If you ask most people what are the Ten Commandments, they probably don't remember all of them, but they usually can tell you the one that says, "Thou shalt not steal." Why is it that even though we know it is wrong to steal, so many of us at one time or another have taken something that didn't belong to us? Maybe it was something big, like someone else's car; or maybe it was something that we thought was insignificant, like eating the food in the grocery store without paying for it, or helping yourself to some office supplies at work. But whether what you stole was big or small, the bible tells us that the Lord does not want us to be involved in stealing and dishonesty. Leviticus 19:11, 13 reads, "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another. Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor, neither rob him..." God's Word is clear. All stealing is wrong, regardless of the monetary value of the thing stolen!

Many times people steal just because an opportunity presents itself. Most people don't start their day with the idea to go out and steal. What would you do in these tempting situations: What if you noticed that someone left their cellular phone on the seat at a restaurant? Would you give it to the management or put it in your pocket? Or what if you found a wallet with some money in it and the person's identification? Would you keep the money or try to return the wallet? Or what if you went to the movies with your friends and they wanted to sneak into a few different theaters? Would you go along with them? Do you even consider that stealing?

Well, again, whenever you take or keep something that doesn't belong to you, you are stealing. If you try to sneak into a place that makes money by charging an admission price, you are stealing. Whether you steal one dollar or one million dollars, it is all the same in God's eyes. A person who robs a bank at gunpoint is a thief, but so is the teenager who is sneaking into the movies. A person who steals your parked car at midnight is a thief, but so is the homeowner who has illegal cable TV hooked up to their house.

Now let's read some verses that show us what happens to those who steal.1 Corinthians 6:9-10 tells us that all thieves will go to hell. It reads: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

A thief is a thief whether he steals something small or something large. And all thieves are counted as unrighteous and, if they don't repent, will be punished for their sin and will not inherit the kingdom of God -- they will go to hell.

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What message are you conveying to God when you steal? It is as though you are telling the Lord, "God, you are not capable of giving me all that I need in life to make me happy. So I will look out for my own needs and supply them any way I can." When stealing, you are telling the one that you call your Savior that you are not interested in pleasing Him and that you don't trust Him. And, finally, you are telling Him by your actions that you are not grateful for the things that He has already done for you. Hebrews 13:5 reads, "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have." That verse is basically saying don't be controlled by love for money and stuff. Be satisfied with what the Lord has already given you.

And think about it. If God was willing to take on the form of man and come to earth and die on the cross for you when you were in sin, don't you think that He is capable of blessing you with the material things that He knows you need? Romans 8:32 even tells us this. It reads, "He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Yes, God promises to supply our needs.

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Now, let's use an illustration to make a point. Let's say you adopted someone into your family as your son. But not only did you adopt them as your son. You knew that this person had a life-threatening illness, so you gave them one of your vital organs to save their life. Then you brought them into your home, and you told them that everything that you have is available to them, all they have to do is ask. But then one day you caught your adopted son sneaking into the window of the home late at night (they have a key to the front door, but they chose to sneak in instead of using their key). You came downstairs and caught them stealing all of the stuff in the house: the stereo, the money in the drawer, everything. How would that make you feel after everything you've done for them? Betrayed? Disappointed? Mad? Hurt?

Well, how must God (the One who adopted you into His family) feel when you steal stuff from His house (the world) after He saved you from your soul-threatening disease (sin) and washed you in His very own shed blood? Surely you know that God does not deserve to be treated with such dishonor and disrespect.

Maybe your mom doesn't know that you have stolen things in the past and the police don't know, but God knows every move we make. Even when you think you've gotten away with something because you didn't "get caught," God catches you. The Lord sees it all, even your secret sins. Psalm 90:8 reads, "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. And Ecclesiastes 12:14 warns, "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." No matter how clever you have been here on earth, when you face the Lord, you will see that He saw every move that you made and every thing that you stole.

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Yes, God is watching you. The question is: Are you living just like the sinful world, or are you showing the Lord that you can be trusted? Maybe God wants to do something really big in your life, but first He waits and watches to see how you handle the smaller situations. He might even test you to see if you can be trusted when no one is looking. Luke 16:10-12 reads, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?"

What is that verse saying? If you are dishonest and can't be trusted around other people's stuff, don't expect God to bless you with things of your own. As a matter of fact, your dishonesty puts you at risk for losing what you already have!

It's kind of like someone who is a cashier at a store. Let's say you work at the mall. If your register always comes up short and clothes are disappearing off the rack when you are at work, your manager probably isn't going to promote you, is he? No. You might even get fired.

And remember the question at the beginning about finding the wallet? Maybe that situation would be a test of your honest character. Think about it. If you don't return that wallet with the money and identification in it, why should God bless you when you come to Him with a personal request? Why should the Lord give you anything if you are busy cheating others out of what's theirs?

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Let's look at more ways that stealing and cheating harms you and will "catch up with you." Have you ever cheated on a test at school? Well, if you are dishonest in school and cheat on tests, yes, you might get a good grade in the class, but you aren't really learning anything, and eventually your sin will be exposed by the fact that you are not very smart.

And what would happen if you keep stealing and eventually are arrested? You would possibly lose your freedom and spend time in jail, but then your dishonesty would catch up with you further because you would end up with a felony on your record and have trouble getting a job because no one would think you could be trusted.

We only hurt ourselves when we steal, and we can lose things that are far more valuable than the thing gained. Proverbs 11:3-5 reads "The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them. Riches profit not in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivereth from death. The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness."

And Proverbs 9:17-18 reads, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell."

These verses are telling us that stolen wealth isn't worth anything in the end. And if you choose to live dishonestly, know that you will be brought down and destroyed by your sins.

The bible says, "Your sin will find you out." Yes, there is a certain pleasure to living dishonestly, but the rewards don't last. So the next time you are considering stealing, ask yourself is it worth it? Is it worth harming my relationship with God? Is it worth missing out on what God has in store for me? Is it worth hurting this person that I'm stealing from? Is it worth losing my freedom because of temporary greed? Is it worth going to hell over?

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So in conclusion, if you know that you are guilty of stealing but you are now truly sorry that you have done this thing to God, turn today from that sin. Confess your sin to God and ask Him to forgive you. Then ask Jesus to come into your life as your Lord and Savior. And ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit and given a new heart, a heart that hates sin as much as God does.

Ephesians 4:28 reads, "Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."

Use your hands to honor God. Live an honest life. Make a commitment to know God and His Word, and God will give you the strength to overcome the temptation to be dishonest. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

And James 1:12 tells us, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."

We show our love and honor to the Lord by obeying His commands. We know the command, "Thou shalt not steal." Now, let's put it into effect!


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