Being Honest to a Fault

Being shrewd as snakes sometimes takes planning.

Genesis 24:34-41 (ESV)

So he said, “I am Abraham's servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master's wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell, but you shall go to my father's house and to my clan and take a wife for my son.’ I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ But he said to me, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father's house. Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my clan. And if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’”

Too much information! This is precisely what a negotiator should not say. The servant describes how they can say no to him and how it will be OK if they do. His sales technique is horrible.

But what is bad from a secular point of view can be good in the kingdom of God. The servant is being completely honest – even annoyingly so. As we’ll see tomorrow, he also leaves out no details in his description of his encounter with Rebekah at the well.

What’s so great about this is that he’s obviously not negotiating. He’s just telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s evidence of complete trust. It might be trust in God or trust in his audience, but either way he’s not worried about being taken advantage of.

He just wants to be honest.

In modern America, this is called, “being honest to a fault.” That’s too bad.

More than almost anything else, business dealings test our commitment to the lordship of Christ. Whether doing our taxes or selling a used car, we should be “honest to a fault.”

But this gets complicated. People may misinterpret your motives. Things can go haywire because being totally honest is so unexpected that it arouses suspicion. Thus, it’s often wise to be brief.

The goal is to be honest, not to bore people. We’re still commanded to be shrewd as snakes, but that’s a reference to cleverness, not deception.

Because of our deceptive culture, honesty in business requires careful planning. Prayer is essential. Also, you may need to think through how to avoid misperceptions.

Lastly, and this is the big challenge, this isn’t about showing off. Don’t let pride ruin the whole thing. Yes, in the long run we want people to recognize that we’re different. Yes, that can “prepare the soil” for someone to be receptive to the gospel.

But don’t let that distract you. Just do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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