Charles H.‭ ‬Dyer

B. Childress
Nov 18 2012

Travel back through time over‭ ‬2,300‭ ‬years to Athens in the fourth century BC.‭  ‬As you wind through the stone streets of
the city,‭ ‬the bright light of the sun casts harsh shadows on the stone pathway before you.‭  ‬You wind through these
mottled streets on your way from the marketplace to your home…carrying your meager purchases for tonight’s meal in a
small sack by your side.

As you round a corner,‭ ‬you spot a man in the distance carrying a lighted lamp.‭  ‬How odd‭!  ‬Why is he carrying a lamp
when the sun is so bright‭?  ‬You watch as he pushes the lamp into the faces of oncoming pedestrians.‭  ‬He draws closer,‭ ‬
and now you make out the simple garb and bare feet of this walking lamppost.‭  ‬He is almost beside you before his
shaking hands thrust the clay lamp into your face.‭  ‬Then he asks his penetrating question:‭ “‬Are‭ ‬you an honest person‭?”

You’ve just met Diogenes…the Greek philosopher asking uncomfortable questions.‭  ‬Diogenes belonged to a school of
philosophy whose members believed virtue was the only good.‭  ‬They sought the essence of good in self-control and
independence,‭ ‬so while looking for an honest individual Diogenes searched for someone who was not motivated by self-

You feel strangely uncomfortable by his penetrating eyes and abrupt question.‭  ‬What does he know about you‭?  ‬You
hesitate but a moment before answering,‭ ‬but even as you begin to speak you are sure he noticed the catch in your
voice.‭  ‬He moves on in his search for someone honest,‭ ‬and you head home-‭ ‬pondering the uncertainty of your answer.


If you were to ask your friends and colleagues what groups of people they felt were most untrustworthy,‭ ‬you might hear
journalists,‭ ‬celebrities,‭ ‬telemarketers,‭ ‬used car salesmen,‭ ‬policemen,‭ ‬and others.‭  ‬But almost everyone would include
politicians on such a list,‭ ‬and have done so for a long time.‭  ‬Mark Twain penned,‭ “‬It could probably be shown by facts
and figures that there is no distinctively native American criminal class except congress.‭”  ‬Will Rogers wisecracked,‭ “‬A
politician is just like a pickpocket‭; ‬it’s almost impossible to get one to reform‭”  ‬Even the French general and politician
Charles de Gaulle said,‭ “‬Since a politician never believes what he says,‭ ‬he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.‭”

We distrust politicians because some‭ (‬thankfully,‭ ‬not all‭!) ‬make outrageous promises to get elected that they cannot
possibly keep.‭  ‬Working in Chicago has given me new insight into the reality of politics and corruption.‭  ‬One recent
example is that of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich who seems to embody the hubris and deceit we have come to
expect in politicians.‭  ‬After the governor spoke at his impeachment trial,‭ ‬State Senator Matt Murphy summed up the
sentiment of many.‭  “‬He reminded us today in real detail that he is an unusually good liar.‭”  ‬The Senate then voted‭ ‬59-0‭ ‬
to remove Blagojevich from office.

Unfortunately,‭ ‬Rod Blagojevich is not an isolated case.‭  ‬Three of Illinois‭’ ‬last seven governors have gone to prison.‭  ‬
Amanda Paulson wrote an incisive article explaining why a‭ “‬culture of corruption‭” ‬seems to pervade Illinois politics.‭  
“‬Politicians blame,‭ ‬in part,‭ ‬Illinois‭’ ‬loose system of ethics and campaign-finance laws.‭  ‬But the deeper issue may be an
entrenched political culture in which trading favors‭ – ‬and money‭ – ‬is often expected and encouraged,‭ ‬people enter
politics thinking more about power and personal gain than public service,‭ ‬and the public holds their elected officials to a
low standard of ethics.

Diogenes would have a tough time searching out a totally honest individual in Springfield,‭ ‬Illinois…or in Washington,‭ ‬
D.C.‭  ‬Politicians are not any more evil or corrupt than society as a whole.‭  ‬But they are under more scrutiny because the
promises they make are public.‭  ‬We entrust our leaders with the authority to do what is right,‭ ‬but they face added
temptations that come with being part of the power structure.‭  ‬Edmund Burke wrote,‭ “‬The greater the power,‭ ‬the more
dangerous the abuse‭”…‬and that is a danger faced by all politicians.

An Honest Politician

Had Diogenes lived two centuries earlier,‭ ‬he could have found his honest man.‭  ‬And that honest man was a career
politician‭!  ‬His name at birth was Daniel,‭ ‬which means‭ “‬God is my judge.‭”  ‬Daniel was born into a royal family in the
kingdom of Judah.‭  ‬But his silver spoon soon tarnished.‭  ‬As a young man he watched the army of
Nebuchadnezzar march on Jerusalem.‭  ‬The city surrendered,‭ ‬and Nebuchadnezzar demanded the collection of several
royal‭ “‬hostages‭” ‬that he could take back to Babylon to guarantee the cooperation of this captured nation.‭  ‬Daniel was
one of these.

Daniel spent three years in Babylon learning the language,‭ ‬laws,‭ ‬and literature of the Babylonians.‭  ‬
He graduated‭ ‬
summa cum laude…top honors in his class‭!  ‬He then entered his career in government.‭  ‬A career that
lasted over six decades.‭  ‬A career that spanned the rule of at least four kings in two separate empires.

In six decades a politician can make many friends‭ – ‬and even more enemies.‭  ‬Enemies seething with jealousy,‭ ‬envy,‭ ‬
anger,‭ ‬and resentment…emotions that gnaw at the insides of otherwise competent people and force them into irrational

The crisis came near the end of Daniel’s governmental career.‭  ‬The king appointed Daniel as one of the top three
administrators over the government.‭  (‬He had reached the level of senior cabinet minister.‭)  ‬But future promotions were
on the horizon.‭  “‬Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional
qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom‭” (‬Daniel‭ ‬6:3‭)‬.‭  ‬Though in his eighties by this time,‭ ‬
Daniel was still leaving the competition in the dust‭!

And how did his political rivals react‭?

“At this,‭ ‬the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government
affairs‭” (‬Daniel‭ ‬6:4a‭)‬.‭  ‬How do you stop a politician in his tracks‭?  ‬Look for the dirt.‭  ‬Find the skeletons in the closet.

Consider how well you would fare if a group of powerful individuals secretly decided to investigate you.‭  ‬They would spy
on you at work.‭  ‬Record the time you arrive each morning and the time you leave every night.‭  ‬Count the paper clips and
pens in your drawer to see if even one is missing.‭  ‬Follow you home to see where you stop along the way.‭  ‬Look through
your mail and magazines to see what you are reading.‭  ‬Rifle through your trash to see what you are eating.‭  ‬
Monitor your television and your computer to see what you are watching.‭  ‬Check your tax returns for‭ “‬irregularities‭” ‬or
unreported income.‭  ‬Look through your bank records to verify all deposits and checks.‭  ‬In short,‭ ‬what would your
file look like if a group of enemies pulled out all the stops and spared no expense to uncover the‭ “‬real‭” ‬you‭?

Picture the scene in the darkened boardroom the night the private eyes presented their report.‭  ‬A few flickering torches
mounted on the glazed-brick walls reveal images of lions,‭ ‬their bared fangs and wild eyes mirroring the ferocity of the
gathering band of conspirators.‭  ‬Packed into the room were‭ ‬120‭ ‬satraps and the other two administrators.‭  ‬They came in
vengeful glee hoping to unmask Daniel and prove to themselves‭ – ‬and to the king‭ – ‬that Daniel was no better than
anyone else.‭  ‬The investigation had been long and arduous,‭ ‬made even more so by the need for secrecy.‭  ‬Neither
Daniel nor the king could know of this‭ “‬private‭” ‬investigation.‭  ‬Had Daniel known,‭ ‬he might have been able to block the
effort or take extra precautions to hide any incriminating evidence.‭  ‬Had the king known,‭ ‬he might have shown his
displeasure at their petty jealousy by ordering their dismissal…or their death‭!

The room grew silent as the chief investigator stepped to the podium.‭  ‬With a grim frown on his face he announced to
those gathered that the investigators‭ “‬could find no corruption in him,‭ ‬because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt
nor negligent‭” (‬Daniel‭ ‬6:4b‭)‬.‭  ‬Daniel was squeaky clean‭!

The group of would-be antagonists reluctantly admitted two essential facts about Daniel’s actions.‭  ‬First,‭ ‬they could find
no evidence of corruption.‭  ‬Daniel had not taken bribes,‭ ‬skimmed money from the public treasury for private gain,‭ ‬
received kickbacks,‭ ‬or provided political favors to friends.‭  ‬No sins of‭ ‬
commission could be found.

No corruption.‭  ‬No neglect.‭  ‬Daniel was as honest as politicians come,‭ ‬and those gathered at this secret meeting had to
be thinking the same thing that had been going through the king’s mind:‭ ‬Daniel was in a league of his own.

A sharp tapping on the podium momentarily silenced the murmuring of the satraps.‭  “‬Don’t abandon all hope,‭” ‬the
speaker said as his face twisted into a sinister grin.‭  “‬Our search uncovered one other item.‭”  ‬Though ignored at
first,‭ ‬this one characteristic offered a ray of hope in an otherwise gloomy report.‭  “‬We will never find any basis for
charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God‭” (‬Daniel‭ ‬6:5‭)‬.

Could there be a connection between Daniel’s faith and his actions‭?  ‬Was Daniel such a‭ “‬straight arrow‭” ‬because of the
heavenly Archer he served‭?  ‬To this group of disgruntled advisors Daniel’s one vulnerability was his
unswerving devotion to his God.‭  ‬Daniel was so honest and consistent in his actions that an attack against his religious
beliefs would not force him to change his routine.

Their plot was ingenious.‭  ‬Flatter the king by suggesting that all prayers for thirty days be directed only to
him.‭  ‬Obviously the law was impractical and unenforceable,‭ ‬but that didn’t matter.‭  ‬These leaders designed the law to
entrap just one individual,‭ ‬and it worked to perfection.‭  ‬Daniel,‭ ‬Mr.‭ ‬Honest-as-they-come,‭ ‬was not about to deny his
God…or hide his public commitment to his God.‭  ‬As soon as the king signed the law,‭ ‬the conspirators hurried to Daniel’s
house.‭  ‬Some gathered in the street along the west side of Daniel’s house,‭ ‬others climbed to the roof of the building just
across the street.‭  ‬They were all seeking a clear view into one particular window in Daniel’s house‭ – ‬an upstairs window
that opened toward the west,‭ ‬toward Jerusalem‭!  ‬For nearly seventy years Daniel had lived in Babylon,‭ ‬but he never
forgot his hometown,‭ ‬or his faith.‭  ‬This was the place where he had prayed daily,‭ ‬and they were hoping he wouldn’t stop
now.‭  ‬As they expected,‭ ‬they found him praying in his open window‭ “‬just as he had done before‭” (‬Daniel‭ ‬6:10‭)‬.

Anyone can display godly character when the going is easy.‭  ‬Few steal if they are satisfied with what they possess.‭  ‬Few
lie when speaking the truth is to their advantage.‭  ‬Few cheat on exams when they know all the answers.‭  ‬
But character
is formed in the crucible of adversity

The key to Daniel’s success in surviving both the political investigation and the infamous lions‭’ ‬den that followed was his
honesty.‭  ‬After his miraculous deliverance Daniel explained why he had been spared.‭  “‬My God sent his angel,‭ ‬and he
shut the mouths of the lions.‭  ‬They have not hurt me,‭ ‬because I was found innocent in his sight.‭  ‬Nor have I ever done
any wrong before you,‭ ‬O king‭” (‬Daniel‭ ‬6:22‭)‬.

Where Has Honesty Gone‭?

Honesty is a character trait held in high regard throughout history.‭  ‬Millions of American schoolchildren grew up knowing
the tale of George Washington confessing to his father,‭ “‬I cannot tell a lie.‭  ‬I chopped down the cherry tree.‭”  ‬Now,‭ ‬it is a
bit disconcerting to find out the story is untrue‭!  ‬Mason Weems,‭ ‬an American Episcopal clergyman,‭ ‬who wrote a popular
biography of George Washington entitled The Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington,‭ ‬invented the story.‭  ‬
Somehow it seems ironic that a clergyman falsified a story about George Washington because he wanted to teach
children about honesty.

Though the story was not true,‭ ‬the lesson conveyed did influence another American some years later.‭  ‬Abraham Lincoln
was born in Kentucky and grew up on the Indiana frontier.‭  ‬Formal education was the exception on the edge of
civilization,‭ ‬but two books profoundly influenced Lincoln’s life.‭  ‬The first was the Bible,‭ ‬and the second was Mason
Weems’s biography of George Washington.‭  ‬With these two books as his guide,‭ ‬is it any wonder that Abraham Lincoln
became known as‭ “‬Honest Abe‭”?

In just over a century the Western world has moved from extolling the virtue of honesty to believing that honesty is not
always the best policy.‭  ‬Don’t get me wrong.‭  ‬I’m not saying that society was honest a century ago.‭  ‬Dishonesty has
marred God’s creations almost from the beginning.‭  ‬The first tempter,‭ ‬Satan,‭ ‬is called‭ “‬a liar‭” (‬John‭ ‬8:44‭)‬.‭  ‬But the
frequency of lying and the acceptability of lying has increased at an alarming rate.

Sadly,‭ ‬this trend is as true for those who claim to follow Christ as it is for those who don’t.‭  ‬Rod Handley highlighted the
severity of the problem.‭  ‬Numerous studies indicate that Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to falsify tax
returns,‭ ‬plagiarize,‭ ‬bribe,‭ ‬shift blame,‭ ‬ignore construction specification,‭ ‬illegally copy software,‭ ‬steal from the workplace,‭ ‬
and selectively obey the laws of the land.‭”

Trust is a fragile commodity.‭  ‬Once lost,‭ ‬it is extremely difficult to recover.‭  ‬We struggle to trust someone caught in a lie.‭  

Why Bother with Honesty‭?

In the back of our minds we all believe in the virtue of honesty.‭  ‬And yet,‭ ‬we all struggle with being honest.‭  ‬Well,‭ ‬actually
we don’t like to think of it in those terms.‭  ‬We prefer to say we‭ “‬fudge‭” ‬a little on a report or test.‭  ‬We only tell‭ “‬little white
lies‭” ‬so we won’t hurt the feelings of others.‭  ‬And we‭ “‬shade the truth‭” ‬to enhance our popularity or fit in with the crowd.‭  ‬
In effect,‭ ‬we lie to ourselves about our dishonesty with others.

But why should we tell the truth‭?  ‬What personal benefits will honesty bring‭?  ‬The Bible presents three specific,‭ ‬positive
results of honesty.‭  ‬Honesty promotes trust,‭ ‬provides a positive role model for others,‭ ‬and pleases God.

Whom do you trust‭?  ‬Stop right now and make a list of five individuals you consider to be trustworthy.‭  ‬They may
be close friends,‭ ‬church or community leaders,‭ ‬coworkers,‭ ‬radio or television personalities,‭ ‬national or international
leaders.‭  ‬But the one common element must be that you trust them.‭  ‬Now look at your list and ask yourself what elements
these individuals have in common.‭  ‬One specific item I’m sure they share is that you perceive them to be people who are
honest.‭  ‬What they say,‭ ‬what they do with their money,‭ ‬how they perform at work,‭ ‬how they treat others‭ – ‬you trust those
who have a reputation for honesty in these areas.

Now,‭ ‬make a list of five individuals you don’t trust.‭  ‬They can be people you know or public figures.‭  ‬Again,‭ ‬look at the list
and ask yourself what elements these individuals share.‭  ‬Those you trust least are those you perceive to be dishonest.‭  ‬
They have lied,‭ ‬cheated,‭ ‬or been dishonest in some way…and that’s why you don’t trust them.

Why is God trustworthy‭?  ‬Because He doesn’t lie and He doesn’t make empty promises.‭  ‬In short,‭ ‬He’s honest.‭  ‬Period.‭  ‬
We stake our eternal destiny on God’s promises.‭  “‬We accept man’s testimony,‭ ‬but God’s testimony is greater because it
is the testimony of God…And this is the testimony:‭ ‬God has given us eternal life,‭ ‬and this life is in his Son.‭  ‬He who has
the Son has life‭; ‬he who does not have the Son of God does not have life‭” (‬I John‭ ‬5:9,‭ ‬11-12‭)‬.‭  ‬God’s honesty to us
promotes trust in Him.‭  ‬And that trust is essential for our eternal destiny.

Are you trustworthy‭?  ‬You like to think so.‭  (‬You certainly‭ ‬
hope others trust you‭!) ‬But trust is a by-product of honesty.‭  ‬If
you lie to others,‭ ‬no matter how small or insignificant the lie is,‭ ‬eventually you will be exposed.‭  ‬To the extent you
compromise your standards of honesty,‭ ‬you will lower the level of trust others have in you.

Honesty provides a positive role model

The past few decades have seen a steep decline in honesty.‭  ‬People distrust politicians,‭ ‬and what little trust remains
erodes deeper at each election when candidates hurl charges and countercharges against each other.‭  ‬Political
commercials,‭ ‬blending half-truths and distorted facts,‭ ‬promote one candidate by tearing down the character of another.‭  ‬
Even‭ “‬Honest Abe‭” ‬would have struggled under all the mud hurled by today’s politicians.

Yet this is no time for Christians to give up.‭  ‬The truth of God’s Word shines most brightly in the darkness.‭  ‬The age we
live in does not have a monopoly on dishonesty.‭  ‬The same moral decline gripped the Roman Empire when the church
began.‭  ‬Christians stood out because they displayed characteristics that were lacking in those around them.

The island of Crete epitomized the cesspool of moral values in the Roman world.‭  ‬In Greek literature‭ “‬to Cretanize‭” ‬was a
euphemism for lying.‭  ‬In Titus I the apostle Paul quoted the Cretan poet Epimenides who described the moral state of his
country five centuries earlier.‭  “‬Cretans are always liars,‭ ‬evil brutes,‭ ‬lazy gluttons.‭”  ‬Then Paul explained that the
evaluation was still valid.‭  “‬This testimony is true.‭”

How could a society with a history of dishonesty ever change‭?  ‬The answer rested in the positive role models of those
believers living in Crete.‭  ‬Paul spent the next chapter explaining how older men‭ (‬2:2‭)‬,‭ ‬older women‭ (‬2:3‭)‬,‭ ‬young women‭
(‬2:4-5‭)‬,‭ ‬young men‭ (‬2:6-8‭)‬,‭ ‬and even slaves‭ (‬2:9-10‭) ‬could become examples who could influence society.‭  ‬Titus was to‭
“‬teach what is in accord with sound doctrine‭” (‬2:1‭)‬.‭  ‬Cretans may have been known the world over as liars,‭ ‬but the
believers in Crete were to live by a different standard.

Passing new laws won’t make society honest.‭  ‬There are not enough police today to enforce the laws already on the
books.‭  ‬Technology won’t make society honest.‭  ‬The Internal Revenue Service uses sophisticated computer programs to
uncover tax fraud,‭ ‬but many still cheat on their income tax returns.‭  ‬Stores spend billions of dollars on security,‭ ‬but
shoplifting continues.

The world needs examples of honesty in action.‭  ‬They need role models of Christians who live out their faith in real life.

Honesty pleases God

The bottom-line question on the issue of honesty is not how we feel about the issue but how God feels.‭  ‬What is God’s
view of honesty‭?

In Proverbs‭ ‬11:1‭ ‬Solomon wrote,‭ “‬The Lord abhors dishonest scales,‭ ‬but accurate weights are his delight.‭”  ‬The
marketplace buzzed with activity.‭  ‬Each vendor called to those passing by,‭ ‬trying to get them to stop and shop.‭  ‬Children
laughed and darted through the crowd,‭ ‬prompting distracted mothers to stop haggling just long enough to shout an
unheeded word of warning.‭  ‬The aroma of freshly baked bread mixed with the fragrance of hyssop and the
pungent smell of yogurt.‭  ‬Baskets of grain and jars of wine sat beside piles of grapes and figs just outside the city gate.‭  ‬
Bargaining was brisk as the vendors hawked their wares.‭  ‬After agreeing on the price,‭ ‬the vendor would set up a pair of
scales.‭  ‬The seller would place the appropriate weights on one side while the buyer placed some silver on the other.‭  ‬
When the scales balanced,‭ ‬the payment was sufficient.

No bureaucracy existed to test and certify the scales of that day.‭  ‬Archaeologists have discovered stone weights at
numerous sites,‭ ‬and no two sets of weights match exactly.‭   ‬The temptation for the seller was great to make each weight
just a fraction heavier than the accepted standard.‭  ‬The average buyer would never know he or she had paid
just slightly more than necessary during the transaction.‭  ‬But God knew.‭  ‬The point of Solomon’s proverb is that‭ ‬
God is
the one who is pleased,‭ ‬or displeased,‭ ‬by such actions.

God expects honesty from those who claim Him as their heavenly Father.‭  ‬He wants His children to share His‭ “‬family
likeness‭”…‬and that includes honesty.‭  ‬Yet some Christians use honesty as an excuse for being rude and obnoxious.‭  ‬
Does being honest mean we must be offensive‭?


In writing to the Ephesians,‭ ‬the apostle Paul spent the first half of his letter describing the spiritual wealth God had
bestowed on His church.‭  ‬In the second half of the letter Paul focused on the‭ “‬so what‭” ‬of each believer’s new
position.‭  ‬A believer’s new position in Christ should bring practical changes in his or her day-to-day conduct.‭  ‬One of the
first areas of change named by Paul is in the area of honesty.‭  “‬Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak
truthfully to his neighbor,‭ ‬for we are all members of one body‭” (‬Ephesians‭ ‬4:25‭)‬.

But we must view Paul’s command within the larger context.‭  ‬Just a few verses earlier Paul focused on the motive that is
to guide all speech.‭  “‬Instead,‭ ‬speaking the truth‭
‬in love,‭ ‬we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head‭”
(‬Ephesians‭ ‬4:15,‭ ‬italics added‭)‬.‭  ‬Some things may be truthful,‭ ‬but they are best left unsaid if the one speaking is not
motivated by love.

Honesty-guided by love-is always the best policy.‭  ‬Sometimes love requires us to hold our tongue rather than lashing
back in an unkind way.‭  ‬But at other times love requires us to tell a friend what they need to hear,‭ ‬even if the words are
not what they want to hear.‭  ‬Such honesty will deepen most true friendships.

Solomon spoke of a friend’s honesty in the book of Proverbs.‭  ‬True friends are those we trust to say the
hard things…the rebukes that reveal blind spots in our lives.‭  ‬Solomon described the value of such honesty from friends.

    Proverbs‭ ‬27:6:‭  “‬Wounds from a friend can be trusted,‭ ‬but an enemy multiplies kisses.‭”  ‬[A friend tells you what
    you need to hear,‭ ‬even if the truth hurts.‭]

    Proverbs‭ ‬27:9:‭  ‬“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,‭ ‬and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from
    his earnest counsel.‭” ‬ [Honest advice from a friend should make us thankful for his or her counsel.‭]

    Proverbs‭ ‬27:17:‭  ‬“As iron sharpens iron,‭ ‬so one man sharpens another.‭”  ‬[A true friend sometimes causes‭
    “‬friction and sparks‭” ‬in our life,‭ ‬but the results are always positive.‭]


CHARACTER COUNTS,‭ ‬by Charles H.‭ ‬Dyers,‭ ‬Copyright‭ ‬2010,‭ ‬Moody Publishers.