Summary: Integrity marks the lives of those who may be trusted in all things.

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Title: Calculating Character

Text: Luke 16:1-13

Thesis: Integrity marks the lives of those who may be trusted.


A pastor was walking down the street when he came to a group of about a dozen boys between 10 and 12 years of age. The boys surrounded an old dog. Concerned that the boys were hurting the animal, the minister went over and asked, "What are you doing with that dog?"

One of the boys replied, "This dog is just an old stray. We all want him, but only one of us can take him home. So we’ve decided whichever one of us can tell the biggest lie gets to keep the dog."

The minister was taken aback. "You boys shouldn’t have a contest telling lies," he said. "Don’t you boys know it’s a sin to lie?" Then he launched into a 10-minute sermon about lying. The clergyman ended his speech with, "When I was your age, I never told a lie."

There was dead silence for about a minute and just as the minister was beginning to think he’d gotten through to them, the smallest boy gave a deep sigh and said, "All right, give him the dog." (Joel Osteen, 2/20/00)

This story is something of a disclaimer for pastor types who may be perceived as above the fray, when in fact, pastors struggle with matters of integrity every day just like every one else. And, there is always someone, be it a bunch of little boys arguing over a dog or the receptionist at the Health Care Center, who is calculating our character.

Folk humorist, Will Rogers once said, “Live so that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.”

Philosopher, John Locke said, “I have always thought that the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.”

Poet, Carl Sandburg said, “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”

Character is not being ashamed of the way we live. Character is having values and thoughts that are reflected positively in observable behavior. Character is knowing that we are capable of wallowing in the mud like hippopotamuses, but making sure that we soar like eagles.

It isn’t easy to stay out of the mud and always soar above the realities of life. And, it isn’t easy to conceal the fact that we’ve wallowed in the mud.

I. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to hide your true character.

“A rich man hired a manager to handle his affairs, but soon a rumor went around that the manager was thoroughly dishonest.” Luke 16:1

Presidential candidate, John McCain acknowledges that he has overcome his fears because of an acute awareness of an even greater fear – remorse. He says, “Remorse is an awful companion. And whatever the unwelcome consequences of courage, they are unlikely to be worse than the discovery that you are less than you pretend to be.” (FastCompany, September 2004)

The man in our story was caught. There was smoke and there was fire. There was no disguising the fact that he had gotten himself a reputation for dishonesty. And now, he was about to be confronted for his lack of character.

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