WE were on a shuttle flight between cities. Two flight attendants, one at the front, the other at the rear of the airplane, started collecting the fare from passengers. When they reached the center row, each thought the other had covered it, and six passengers, including my friend and me, were never asked for fares. The other four in that row walked quickly off, chuckling at having had a free flight. My friend and I offered our money to the attendants. The two young ladies were horrified at their mistake, one tearfully saying that the loss would be deducted from their salaries. What would you have done? Was it clever to have had a free flight?
Dishonesty can really hurt others. In this case two innocent workers had their salaries docked and may have received a severe reprimand as well.
Was the flight really free for those who didn't pay? Weren't they stealing from themselves, depriving themselves of their integrity? Surely it's more important to retain this than to keep the cost of an air fare.
Christ Jesus taught us through his unique and permanent example the value of honesty. His Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew, chapters 5-7, is a blueprint for an honest life. When he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, he said to the insidious suggestion that would drag him down, ``Get thee behind me, Satan.''1 He admonished his listeners to keep the Commandments, including ``Thou shalt not steal.''2 His love was such that he yearned to protect mankind from the suffering that comes from dishonesty, adultery, violence. Jesus' sonship with God enabled him to feel his Father's love. We too can feel that love of God, impelling us to do right. Through prayer we can discern the guidance of our heavenly Father so that our every need is cared for honestly and fairly, without harm to others.
In our striving to be honest it's helpful to remember that our real selfhood, as the spiritual image of God, is not a dishonest mortal, or even a mortal who starts right and then falls into temptation. Man, as God has truly created him, exists at the standpoint of perfection and is loved by God. Knowing this -- knowing who we really are -- enables us to be honest.
It is, then, possible to do what's right, even if someone has slipped into wrong ways under pressure or out of apparent necessity. Mary Baker Eddy, who established the Church of Christ, Scientist, over one hundred years ago, and who authored the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, writes: ``If you believe in and practise wrong knowingly, you can at once change your course and do right.''3
It isn't enough to excuse ourselves by saying that we indulge in a little lie only occasionally, for this can lead to further dishonesty with greater pain for ourselves and others. But even more unfortunate than this danger is the fact that dishonesty obscures our view of the basic truth that man is, in reality, the offspring of God, of divine Principle, of Truth itself. Man exists to express the pure qualities of God.
To fail to conform to our true nature in thought and action causes us to let go our grasp of the Father's hand, metaphorically speaking, to cast off His protecting care; and this halts our progress Spiritward. Dishonesty brings neither happiness nor success. Like a faulty block in the foundation of a skyscraper, it must be detected and replaced so that the building can soar safely upward.
Was it enough on the airplane for my friend and me to be honest and pay the fare? Not really. If we had alerted the flight attendants to the oversight during the flight, we would have helped the four who didn't pay to be honest. True honesty is unselfish and helps others to be true to divine Principle. It reveals the real nature of man's being as God's likeness.
There is nothing clever in dishonesty. Honesty brings us happiness and a wonderful freedom from guilt. In the end it pays better dividends than dishonesty ever can.
1Luke 4:8. 2See Matthew 19:18. 3Science and Health, p. 253.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Provide things honest in the sight of all men. Romans 12:17