You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. – Leviticus 19:11 (NKJV)
I was raised to never tell a lie or cheat in any way. I’m not good at deceit. I try to be honest in everything.
When I record my mileage, for example, I always write down exactly what I drive, to the hundredth mile. Same with money. To the cent. No rounding off for me. I save more receipts and records for tax purposes than I need to. Someone once described me as painfully honest.
Like the time I asked the cashier for my change in quarters.
“Excuse me,” I said politely after she’d nicely obliged, “but I was supposed to get four. I have three.” I counted them out for her. She looked confused. Since she’d already closed the cash drawer, she grabbed her purse and fished around until she found a quarter and handed it to me. When I got home and cleaned out my purse, however, I found the lost quarter way down on the bottom. I felt terrible. Cashiers at those dollar stores probably don’t make a lot of money, and here I cheated her out of 25 cents. I put the errant quarter in a special compartment in my wallet to return to her the next time I was in town. Which I did.
“You didn’t have to do that!” the employees gushed when I told them what happened.
I was pretty proud of my honesty and my reputation for honesty. I may be weak in other areas, I thought, but honesty is my strong point.
Until one morning in Sunday school. The lesson was on honesty. I’d read it over the week before class and felt pretty smug.
“What are some ways we’re dishonest?” the teacher asked. The first answer was about money.
“What are some other ways?”
I raised my hand. “Relationships.”
He nodded. “Can you give me an example?”
Since I don’t lie to anyone, don’t cheat on my husband—I’m a real goody two-shoes—I said the first thing that popped into my head. “Well, I get into Dean’s potato chips and then puff up the bag.”
Laughter erupted. I gave another example. “I used to buy those 28-ounce boxes of chocolate-covered nuts every Christmas and Easter. I’d always take from the bottom layer and leave the top layer alone, so it looked like a full box.”
More laughter. Class clown. That’s me.
Now, snitching potato chips and chocolate isn’t a sin. So I could have all the chips and chocolate I want. Right?
Except I’m trying to lose weight. And chips and chocolate are not conducive to weight loss.
The sin is deceit. I want the bag to appear as full as it was when he closed it last, so I puff it up and fold it exactly the way he had it folded. And I wanted the box of chocolates to look full when it was only half full.
Of course, I ’fess up when he exclaims, “Where did all my chips go?” Or “What happened to all the chocolate-covered nuts?” I can’t lie, remember?
The sin is also pride. Sometimes we can be so blind to the subtle sins that are just as destructive as the blatant ones. It’s a good thing that “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 RSV).
I wonder—should I tell Dean about the chocolate I hid in the recipe box?
Dear God, sin is not cute. It nailed Your Son to the cross. Remind me of that the next time I’m tempted to be deceitful. Amen.
Read and reflect on Proverbs 6:16–19