Monday, February 4, 2008

The Honest Souls

The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, nicknamed "The Cynic," was said to have carried around a lantern in daylight to make a show of looking for an ever-elusive honest man. Today, many of us don't even bother searching; we're too busy making sure the dishonest people don't get the best of us. Planning to hire someone? Make sure you run a full background check--and have him sign a 20-page contract. Buying something at a store? Keep one finger over the number on your charge card; someone might photograph it with a cell phone. Never offer to help a stranger. Never accept help from a stranger. Teach your children early on to be suspicious of anyone who shows interest in them. Don't even smile at people. Better to snub the innocent than fall victim to the unscrupulous.

Unfortunately, since unscrupulous people do exist--and since the most dangerous ones are very good at faking trustworthiness--I can't advise you to ignore all of the above and feel free to get into cars with strangers on dark streets. But it does seem worth noting that the more suspicious people become of each other, the more dishonest the world as a whole seems to get. It shouldn't surprise us. The more we distrust others, the more we avoid them--and the less we know them. The less we know them, the less inclined we are to get involved when they're in trouble. The less people help others in trouble, the more criminals feel free to do as they please. The more crimes are committed, the more we distrust others.... and so on and on.

Both Paul (1 Cor. 6:6-8) and Jesus (Mt. 5:38-42) said that it was better to let people take advantage of us than to dishonor the name of God by being petty and vindictive. Not that we should never defend our safety or our rights; but we must not let them become idols. If we do, we show that we don't really trust God; we don't believe He will defend us, so we take that job out of His hands. And often we turn dishonest ourselves: stretching the truth here; calling in sick there; telling "white lies" to avoid embarrassment--all in the name of not letting other people take advantage of us. We become as worldly as any non-Christian.

We would do better to concentrate on becoming living examples of godly honesty. Maybe then others will realize that we do, in fact, have something they want.

The world has need of the honest souls, who work hard for their daily bread--
An honest day's work for an honest day's pay, and no thought to take ease instead--
Who give what they can, and take what they earn, and want only to do their share,
To put in their part so the world runs smooth, for they know what is just and fair.

The world has need of the honest souls, who will not take a chance to sin,
With whom every unlocked door is safe, and cash down to the final ten;
Who return what is lost, and pay what they owe, and see others receive their due;
Who hold to their word even when it hurts, for they know what is firm and true.

The world has need of the honest souls, who work to correct the wrong,
Who stand for the right whatever the cost, for their courage is firm and strong.
Lord, make me an honest soul for You, and a beacon and guiding light,
Till the world is an ocean of honest souls, and a mighty force for the right!

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