Honesty is that disposition which prompts us to give to every one his due. It makes us thoughtful of the rights of others. Its influence is felt in all the relations of life. It makes us more anxious to give to others their rights, than we are to insist upon our own. We would infinitely prefer to be the victims of injustice, than to be unjust. A holy person would a thousand times rather suffer wrong, than do wrong. He watches carefully lest others be the losers through his fault. He never takes advantage of the ignorance of another. In buying he does not decry an article in order to obtain it for less than it is worth in selling, he does not conceal defects in order to obtain more for a thing than its real value. He freely gives all the information necessary to form a correct judgment in the matter. Even the heathen standard of honesty did not allow one man to take advantage of the ignorance of another. Cicero proposes a case as follows. He says, “Antisthenes brings a ship-load of grain to Rhode at a time of great scarcity. The Rhodians flock about him to buy. He knows that five other ships, laden with grain, will be there tomorrow. Ought he to tell the Rhodians this, before he sells his own grain? Undoubtedly he ought, otherwise he makes a gain of their ignorance, and so is no better than a thief or a robber.” You may say, “Business is business, and religion is religion,” but that does not relieve the matter. The Bible demands honesty in business. A holy man regulates and controls his business according to the principles of justice. Yet many who profess the holy religion of Jesus purposely take advantage of the ignorance of others, and so “are no better than thieves and robbers.”
One takes advantage of the necessities of others. Some labor must be done or service performed. The want is urgent. Yet he who takes advantage of this necessity and extorts an unreasonable price for the service rendered, acts precisely upon the principle of the highwayman who takes advantage of the traveler’s helpless condition and demands his money or his life. When we undertake to assist another, though there be no stipulation as to the compensation to be received, our obligations to God will not allow us to be unreasonable in our requirements. We must do as we would be done by.
Holiness implies honesty between employers and the employed. If I sell my time and skill to another; to fail in rendering him the service for which I am paid, is, as really an act of dishonesty as to rob his till, or steal his goods. So the apostle commands those who are working for others to do it
“in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.”—Ephesians 6:6
The employers are to give servants their due, of taking advantage of their wants and getting their service for less than its value; nor paying them in that which they do not want. An eminent minister hired a young man to work for him through the season. When they settled the minister gave him his note. This was satisfactory at the time. But circumstances soon after rendered it necessary for the young man to return to his friends quite a distance away. The minister, as the expression is, “shaved his own note.” As far as honesty is concerned he might as well have stolen from him that amount.
In the family relations, in the every day occurrences of life, there is need for the constant exercise of this principle. We must “follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord,” not only in the Church, but in the family, in the treatment of companion, and children, and dependents, in the workshop and on the farm, behind the counter and in the office, in meeting obligations and in making bargains, on the streets and in the cars, and in all our intercourse with our fellowmen.