WYSIWYG Christians Exodus 20:15-16

We come this morning to the Eighth and Ninth of the ten commandments: Exodus 20:15-16 “You shall not steal.” “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.”
These two belong together under the one heading of honesty – no lying, no stealing.
Stealing is dishonesty in our dealings with property. Lying is dishonesty in our use of words. God expects Christians to be scrupulously honest both in the things that we do and in the things that we say. It’s all about integrity. No stealing. No lying.

One day in London a vicar noticed a group of boys standing around a small stray dog. “What are you doing, boys?” He asked.
“Telling lies,” said one of the boys. “The one who tells the biggest lie gets to keep the dog.”
The vicar was shocked. “Why, when I was your age,” he said, “I never ever thought of telling a lie.”
The boys looked at one another, and their faces fell. Finally one of them shrugged and said,
“I guess he wins the dog.”

There was a time when vicars and ministers were known for their honesty and integrity. Indeed there have been periods in history when Christians, more than any other groups of people, have enjoyed a reputation for honesty, for always telling the truth and never lying or stealing. And so it should be. Because our God cares about honesty and dishonesty and truth and falsehood and God does not like lying or stealing. No lying. No stealing. The words TRUTH and TRUE appear more than 500 times in the Bible!!! And the Bible speaks more than 150 time about honesty & dishonesty and being honest.

There is a relatively new word which I can remember from when it entered our language in 1982 back when I was teaching people about computers. The word is WYSIWYG and it stands for “what you see is what you get.” In computing it means that what you see on your computer screen is exactly what will appear on your printer. But you can apply that word to people as well. WYSIWYG people are those rare individuals who are exactly what they appear to be, no more and no less. They are completely open and honest without a trace of deception. What you see is what you get. GOD wants us to be WYSIWYG Christians.

Or, to use a different word, God calls us to be TRANSPARENT CHRISTIANS, transparent people, transparently honest, with nothing hidden, nothing concealed, no trace of deceit or dishonesty. No stealing. No lying. Transparent Christians.

We start by reminding ourselves that Our lives are TRANSPARENT TO GOD

God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel from among the sons of Jesse. Samuel thought he knew how to recognise God’s chosen one, but God had other ideas.
1 Samuel 16:6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, `Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

God knows us inside out. God looks into our innermost thoughts. God looks at the heart!
Psalm 139:1 ¶ Lord, you have examined me and you know me. 2 You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts. 3 You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions. 4 Even before I speak, you already know what I will say. GNB

So there is no point in deceit – we can’t deceive God. You can fool some of the people all of the time and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool God any of the time, not ever. What a man is on his knees before God is exactly what he is – no more, no less.

Ps 51:6 Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. (GNB)

God demands truth and sincerity. The word sincere comes from two Latin words – sine and cera, meaning “without wax.” Years ago, a potter would often put his stamp on a pot or vase with the words sine cera. This meant that to his knowledge there was no flaw in that work. If a potter had cracked the vessel, he would carefully patch the flawed vase or bowl or statuette by filling in the crack with wax. Then he would glaze it over and sell it at a much lower price. But only flawless pieces of pottery would be given the stamp, sine cera, “without wax,” and they would be worth much more because of that.

God is transforming Christians to be sincere, without hidden flaws, no imperfections, no pretending to be what we are not, no putting on a show. We can’t hide anything from God! And God demands that we present the same face to the whole world that we present to Him. God wants us to be, in front of our friends and family, God wants us to be in front of our neighbours and work colleagues, the same people that we are on our knees before Him. WYSIWYG people. Transparent people.

JESUS TAKE ME AS I AM, I can come no other way.
Take me deeper into You, Make my flesh life melt away.
Make me like a precious stone, Crystal clear and finely honed,
Life of Jesus shining through, Giving glory back to You.

The life of Jesus can only shine through us when we are entirely honest and open and sincere. If there is any pretence, any concealment, above all any dishonesty, then the people around us won’t be able to see Jesus in his glory – only us and all our imperfections.

So our lives must be TRANSPARENT TO THE WORLD

Back in May in our evening services we had a series of discussions on everyday Christian living and the first of those was entitled “Integrity: white lies and speed limits.” We thought about whether it is every acceptable for Christians to tell a lie. Ephesians 4:15 commands us to speak the truth in love. There may be occasions when it may seem that love constrains us to tell a “white lie”, to bend the truth, or conceal the truth, because speaking the truth might lead to great harm. The classic question in the Second World War, from the book The Hiding Place where a Nazi soldier asked Corrie Ten Boom, went something like this. “Do you have a secret room where you are hiding the Jews we want to arrest?” We considered that in such extreme circumstances it could be justified to tell a lie in order to save an innocent person’s life. But in our lives, that would be a very rare exception. If a Christian ever finds himself or herself speaking words which are not true, we will always do so with deep regret, recognising that the lesser evil of a lie to prevent a greater evil or hurt is nevertheless a lie! In every normal situation, Christians will always want to tell the truth. No lying.

In everyday life there are many embarrassing questions. The child who asks, “do you like this picture I have drawn?” or the wife who wants to know, “do you like my new dress / new hairdo?” Or what about the classic Christmas question – “how did you like the present I gave you?” “Oh yes, that orange tie with pink spots, most … tasteful”. In such situations it is so tempting to and so easy to give a little white lie. But there is a slippery slope there. We should remember that VERY few occasions are really a matter of life and death. In every normal situation Christians will want to tell the truth. No lying.

I came across a revealing phrase. “A certain politician didn’t lie, he just stretched the truth until the elastic snapped!” We should remember that every time we bend the truth or are economical with the truth, even if we are doing so out of love or with the best of motives, we are going against the letter and the spirit of Scripture. Do not bear false witness. No lying!

Matthew 5:33 “You have also heard that people were told in the past, `Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’ 34 But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 Simply let your `Yes’ be `Yes’, and your `No’, `No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Jesus challenges us to be known as people who can be trusted in everything we say, and equally in everything we do. To be known and to stand out in society as “truth-tellers.” Too often people will tell lies to get out of trouble, or to impress other people, without giving their lies a second thought. And Christians can so easily and so often fall into this trap as well. But we should NOT slip into telling lies (not even little ones, not even so-called little white lies) just to get ourselves of difficult situations.

“What harm will just one little white lie do?” we think to ourselves. Somebody once asked the great ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle what could a man gain by telling a lie? Aristotle replied, “Never to be trusted when he speaks the truth.”

If people can’t trust what we say is true in day-to-day life, why should they trust us when we claim to know the truth which can sets them free? Why should they believe the gospel we proclaim if they can’t believe other things we tell them because they know we have lied to them? Christians really need to be known as trustworthy and honest people.

We live in a world which considers honesty and integrity less important than popularity and success. Truth has become a very elastic thing. There is a famous quote ascribed both to Groucho Marx and to Sam Goldwyn, although in the interests of accuracy I have to reveal that nobody actually knows who it was who first said it. The quote goes,
“The most important thing is honesty. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” That is the way the world thinks, certainly salesmen and politicians. But God thinks differently. The eighth and ninth commandments are very clear. No stealing No lying. Sadly, very many people only care about the unwritten 11th commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught!”
For Christians, our honesty should be transparent in our everyday lives. This should show in our attitudes to work and our attitudes to money. No stealing. Our honesty will be evident when we don’t use the office phone for personal calls if there isn’t a procedure for paying for personal calls, even if everybody else is doing that! Our honesty will show itself in our Tax returns. I heard about a letter one man sent to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

“Dear Inland Revenue
Enclosed you will find a check for £150. I cheated on my income tax return last year. But now I have become a Christian I have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest.
Sincerely, A Tax Payer”

No stealing. No lying. As Christians, our lives should be shining examples of honesty and integrity and trustworthiness. Transparent Christians. WYSIWYG Christians.

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “Honesty has a beautiful and refreshing simplicity about it. No ulterior motives. No hidden meanings. An absence of hypocrisy, duplicity, political games, and verbal superficiality. As honesty and real integrity characterize our lives, there will be no need to manipulate others.”

Part of this integrity is doing what you said you would do. It means keeping your promises. It means faithfulness to marriage promises. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. The seventh commandment is just the application of the eighth and ninth commandments to marriage. In the same way, integrity means keeping the promises we make to children and friends and church.

And another important part of being honest and trustworthy is keeping confidences. When somebody tells us some piece of information, then unless they specifically tell us we can pass it on to others we have a solemn obligation to keep that piece of information to ourselves. The safe thing to do is to assume that everything anybody tells us is shared in confidence, unless they give us permission to tell others. Christians are not always as good as we should be at keeping confidences. Some people use a deceptive phrase like, “I’m just sharing this for prayer.” That is just an excuse for gossip. That should not happen. WYSIWYG Christians and Transparent Christians are people who can always be trusted not to gossip to others what we have been told in confidence.

Of course there is nothing surprising in what I am saying. We all agree that integrity is important, that keeping promises and keeping confidences and sincerity and honesty are all important. In our everyday lives, we need to remember that God doesn’t care so much about what we SAY is right or wrong in theory. What God cares about is what we actually DO in practice. So how can we grow in honesty and develop our integrity?

– transparently honest, nothing hidden, no deceit, nothing concealed, no trace of deceit and dishonesty.

Mark Twain once said that the church is a place where a nice respectable person stands in front of other nice, respectable people and urges them to be nicer and more respectable. If that is all church is for us, we are completely missing the point.

Church should be the place, or rather, the people who are the church should be the family where we learn to be completely honest with each other. Where we learn to open our lives and be vulnerable with each other. Where we learn to trust each other. God has given us each other so that we can practice being sincere and honest with each other –so we can learn integrity, openness, honesty, and vulnerability. Church is the community where we learn to be WYSIWYG Christians by watching WYSIWYG Christians. We become transparent Christians ourselves by sharing our lives with other transparent Christians. Like so many things – honesty and integrity are “better caught than taught”

We need to learn how to be genuine with each other. To learn how to be honest about our weaknesses and our failings with each other. We need to come to the point where we can be completely open without being scared that other Christians will kick us when we are down, and without being scared that other Christians will exploit our weaknesses and judge us or reject us. And in all of this, confidentiality is key. We need to be able to trust that the things we say will not be blabbed to other people we would never tell.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

In some other churches the priest has the role of defining for the people what is right or wrong, and how serious a sin is, by the ritual of receiving Confession. We Baptists don’t necessarily have a forum for discussing everyday ethical and moral issues. Perhaps there would be a valuable place in our church life for Confession and Absolution and for services of Reconciliation.

Eph 4:25 No more lying, then! Everyone must tell the truth to his fellow-believer, because we are all members together in the body of Christ. GNB

No lying. No stealing. Our lives are transparent before God. We need lives which are transparent to the world. And we must begin by letting our lives become transparent to other Christians. WYSIWYG Christians!

But are any of us brave enough to do it??????

JESUS TAKE ME AS I AM, I can come no other way.
Take me deeper into You, Make my flesh life melt away.
Make me like a precious stone, Crystal clear and finely honed,
Life of Jesus shining through, Giving glory back to You.

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