A poor man finds a briefcase with $10,000 in it. At his place of worship he reads a notice stating that a visiting wealthy man had lost his briefcase and is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who returns it. Quickly he contacts the owner and gives him the briefcase.
The rich man counts the money and says, “I see you have already taken your reward out.”
“What are you talking about?” the poor man asks.
The wealthy man continues, “This briefcase had $11,000 in it when I lost it.”
The two men begin arguing, and eventually they end up in court before an old and wise judge.
Both men present their case. The poor man first, then the wealthy man who concludes by saying, “I trust you believe me, Your honor.”
The judge nods and says, “Of course.” The rich man smiles. The poor man is devastated. The judge then instructs his court officer to take the briefcase and give it to the poor man who found it.
“What are you doing!” the rich man yells angrily.
The judge responds, “You are, of course, an honest man, and if you say your missing briefcase had $11,000 in it, I believe you. I am sure it did. But if the man who found this briefcase is a liar and a thief, he wouldn’t have returned it at all! Which means this briefcase must belong to someone else. If that person comes forward, they will get the money. Otherwise, it stays with the man who found it.”
“What about MY money?!” the rich man asks.
“Well, you’ll just have to wait until somebody finds a briefcase with $11,000 in it.”
In this parable, the judge was wise enough to discern that the poor man would not have returned the briefcase at all had he been a thief or a liar. So without accusing the wealthy man of anything, the judge was able to render a just sentence.
In real life, however, the honest individual rarely prevails against the powerful but corrupt. This begs the question: Is honesty really the best policy? What do you think? Here are a few reasons why some people prefer to be honest, even if it has its setbacks.
Educators and psychologists have taught when we live a lifestyle of honesty, we build good character. On the other hand, if we lose our character by being dishonest, we lose part of who we are and who we might become. Honesty creates closer relationships since people are drawn to people they trust. There is also less stress in being honest, plus you feel better about yourself.
According to one “Science of Honesty” study presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention, telling the truth when tempted to lie can significantly improve a person’s mental and physical health.
Anita E. Kelly, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, said, “Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week. We wanted to find out if living more honestly can actually cause better health. We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health.”
A person who is dishonest can become mentally detached from reality since they are doing one thing and saying another. Is there any wonder how this can make a person mentally ill? There is a sincere freedom in knowing that you never have to cover your tracks by remembering what lies you told and to whom.
Could living such a double life be tantamount to deceiving one's self? Author Spencer Johnson said, “Integrity is telling myself the truth, and honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
Each day we make the decision to be honest or dishonest. Does being honest suggest being blunt, rude or tactless in our speech? On the contrary, Colossians 4:6 recommends, “Everything you say should be kind and well thought out so that you know how to answer everyone.” — GOD’S WORD Translation.
An honest person can speak truth without being offensive. As Hebrews 13:18 says, “We are sure that we have a clear conscience, because we always want to do the right thing.” — New Century Version.
A powerful reason for being honest is the way truth impacts our relationship with our Creator. As Jesus Christ said at John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” — American Standard Version.
Pursuing honesty allows us to draw closer to God. As James 4:8 says, “Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinner. Purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Honesty is at the heart of who we are and what we believe in. It reveals the inner being and opens our lives to show something greater and deeper within. Socrates wrote, “The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be.”
Remember, honesty is a choice. Only you can decide to start being the person you know you want to be in thoughts, words, and actions. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”