On Higher Ground

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By Bill Horner

Honesty really is the best policy


“Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” 

How many times have we heard those words, either on television or in a real-life courtroom?  Is it acceptable before God to swear such an oath?

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all.  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” (Matthew 5:33-37).

In New Testament times the truthfulness of an individual’s statement often depended on his oath.  If he swore by the temple in Jerusalem, he was not as bound to the truth as if he swore by the gold of the temple. 

At least not in the eyes of the legalistic religious leaders. Jesus was not condemning anyone for affirming his truthfulness in court under the penalty of perjury to satisfy the governing authorities. Rather, He was urging His followers to be so truthful in their daily interactions with others that no oath would be necessary. Their “yes” or “no” should stand on its own.

Has anyone ever questioned your honesty?

A few weeks ago I related the account of my job as a “porter” with a department store in Texas during my training for the ministry. After I left that job, I applied for one at another department store. This job, while low-paying, would carry a little more responsibility. The interview went well at first. I was dismayed, however, to learn that I must pass a polygraph (lie detector) test before they could hire me. I had nothing to hide, but I did not relish being hooked up to a machine that might just tell a lie about me.  Nevertheless, I submitted.

The testing took place on the seventh floor of an old office building in downtown Ft. Worth with seasoned professionals administering it. I was nervous when I left the house.  I was more nervous driving downtown.  My jitters increased with each floor the slow, creaky elevator passed on the way up. By the time Mr. and Mrs. Cameron ushered me into the examining room, I was ready to confess to the Lindberg kidnapping and the Jimmy Hoffa murder. According to Proverbs, “The wicked flee when no one pursues.”  I was innocent but desperately wanted to flee.

The polygraph contraption had needles and pens to mark a rolling strip of paper in accordance with my pulse, breathing, etc.  I would be tethered to this monstrosity with leather straps and electrodes.

“Why do you think you are taking this test?” Mrs. Cameron asked. My dry mouth could not even utter a reply. “It’s not to catch you in a lie,” Mr. Cameron assured me, “but to determine if you are a truthful person.”  Their manner was warm and gracious.  Mr. Cameron reviewed the questions with me before he ever hooked me up to the machine.  He even rephrased a couple of the questions to remove any doubts I might have had about my accuracy in answering. Nevertheless, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” So I felt guilty with every answer; I could feel my heart skip a beat, my blood pressure rise, my skin get clammy. I was a nervous wreck! Here I was telling the truth, and this stupid machine was going to brand me a liar!

“Well, Mr. Horner, you passed,” Mr. Cameron announced before they even set me free from the device. I left surprised, relieved, and drained.

I promptly turned down the job. 

Somehow I didn’t want to work for those who could not trust me without polygraph proof. Two weeks later I applied for a job with a sign manufacturer. The interviewer informed me that they too required a polygraph test but that I, being a ministerial student, would not have to take one. 

They trusted me!  They paid a higher wage, too. 

I went to work for them.

“He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known” (Proverbs 10:9).