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.

II. We are commended for our good character and held accountable for our lack of it.

“So, his employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about your stealing from me? Get your report in order.’” Luke 16:3

In the BBC series, The Monarch of the Glen which ran from 1999 through 2005, Hector McDonald is the aging Laird of Glenbogle, a beautiful high country Scottish estate that has been in the McDonald family since the 16th century. Hector is a noble man and takes his role as the Chieftain of the McDonald Clan very seriously, but he is a terrible manager and as the estate falls into debt and disrepair, he hired an estate manager.

In the first episode, Hector and Molly McDonald’s son, Archie, returns home from Glasgow and is told that his father has made him the new Laird and that he is now the head of the McDonald Clan and charged with restoring the Castle at Glenbogle and all of the lands of the estate in order to preserve the home of the McDonald Clan so that all of the McDonalds will always know that they have a home in the hills of Scotland.

Archie eventually settles in and discovers that the man his father hired to manage the estate has actually mismanaged the estate intentionally, in order to facilitate the sale of Glenbogle to some rich investors who wish to acquire the estate.

As the new Laird of Glenbogle, Archie McDonald confronted the mis-manager, charged him with his deceit, and discharged him from his responsibilities. Archie fired him on the spot!

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