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Posts Tagged ‘honesty’


Genesis 27Deception

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Govert Flink: Isaac Blesses Jacob

No matter how many times I read this story I continue to be curious about Rebekah, the woman who changes the course of history when she urges Jacob to deceive his aging father in order to steal his brother’s birthright.  In her elegant yet simple scheme she takes on all culpability and allows both Jacob and Isaac to stand by passively as the story unfolds.  This dichotomy of action versus inaction is reflected in the values these family members choose; and it calls us to examine our way of relating to others in this world.

From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY (99): “Jacob’s disguise involves his wearing his brother Esau’s clothing; as will be seen, deception involving clothing is an important motif in the narrative about Jacob’s beloved son Joseph (37:31-33)”.  A son deceives his father . . . this son is in turn deceived by his own sons.  We can only wonder if years later Jacob sees this echo of himself in any way when he realizes what has happened to his beloved son, Joseph.   In all of this deception, the result is the same: separation from those we love and pain we had not intended.  The joy and hope we looked for cannot flourish in a life of shadows and secrets.  The irony is not lost on us that by participating in fraud, we may gain our immediate objective . . . but we will also experience a lifetime of rippling, unforeseen consequences that we may not want or like.

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini: Rebekah at the Well

We humans struggle to climb to the top of the heap, to arrive first, to be the most liked, the best fed, shod and clothed.  Many of us use any means to justify this end while others of us reject deception of any kind to hug closely the values of integrity and honesty.  This uncomplicated choice of deceit versus honesty is presented to us in Psalm 101: Norm of Life for Rulers.  We may want to pray it today as we consider who we choose as our companions in life . . . and who we are as companions to others.

I follow the way of integrity . . . I do not allow into my presence anyone who speaks perversely . . . I shun the devious of heart; the wicked I do not tolerate . . . Those who follow the way of integrity, they alone can enter my service.  No one who practices deceit can hold a post in my court . . . I look to the faithful of the land; they alone can be my companions. 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 99. Print.


To visit a site with art through the ages about this story, go to: http://www.bible-art.info/Rebecca.htm

Images from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/83.html and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 19, 2011.

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Acts 5:1-11The End of the Wicked

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Goya: Witch’s Sabbath

“The sin of Ananais and Sapphira did not consist in the withholding of part of the money but in their deception of the community.  Their deaths are ascribed to a lie to the Holy Spirit (3.9), i.e., they accepted an honor accorded them by the community for their generosity, but in reality they were not deserving of it”.  (Senior 191)  Thinking through this story gives us the opportunity to reflect on the concept of honor: what it is, how it is rightly and wrongly earned, why we bestow it on others, and what we do with an award accorded to us.

We might immediately think of warriors who risk life itself as they defend people, property or concepts.  Medals are given – sometimes posthumously – to those who give of themselves at great personal cost.  Some of these heroes deny that they have done anything above or beyond what another would have done.  We spectators know differently and so we honor those who think of themselves last at such great physical, psychological, and personal expense.

As in today’s example, we might honor philanthropists, those among us who are gifted with an abundance of talent or goods either directly earned or inherited.  Many humanitarians give anonymously in order to better share what they have.  Some have strict guidelines a petitioner must follow in order to win an award.  Still others give loudly and with fanfare.  In any or all of these cases, we give accolades and recognition to those who share their wealth.

There are also those among us who give at great personal and spiritual price.  These holy warriors have no money and little talent for physical defense; yet they are as important as any other kind of hero and they too must be honored.  We all know holy people who either boldly or quietly prayed themselves and many others into God’s hands.  Their value is greater than rubies or pearls for the battle they wage is with the greatest and darkest of powers.  Saints whose names form the litanies we pray are obvious spiritual heroes; but there are many of these holy ones among us . . . and we rely on them more than we know.  We must recognize them as easily as we do the heroes of war and wealth.

In today’s story we find lots to think about: How Ananais and Sapphira think they can deceive God himself, how the community first admires this couple and then is stunned at the immediate consequences of their deceitful actions.  Perhaps God is setting an early example of what it means to live in Christ-like community: honesty, integrity, trust and fidelity are hallmarks of a truly unified yet diverse group.  Lies only fool those who create them for the truth is always revealed . . . sometimes immediately . . . always with certainty.

We all know people who accept credit where it is not due.  We may have seen these people of the lie come unraveled . . . or we may believe that these people live long, blameless lives without just compensation for the pain they cause.  We need not worry about these deceivers as today’s story tells us.  We need only fix ourselves on maintaining our own purity of purpose as we move through each day.   We will take solace from the often-sung Psalm 73 as we pray . . . Truly God is good to those who are pure of heart.  But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; I had almost tripped and fallen; because I envied the proud and saw the prosperity of the wicked: for they suffer no pain, and their bodies are sleek and sound; in the misfortunes of others they have to share; they are not afflicted as other are; therefore they wear pride like a necklace and wrap their violence about them like a cloak . . . When I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me; until I entered the sanctuary of God and discerned the end of the wicked . . . Oh how suddenly them come to destruction . . . Like a dream when one awakes; O Lord, when you arise you make their image vanish.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.191. Print. 


Image from: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2015/11/07/goyas-pinturas-negras/ 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 8, 2011.

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Psalm 24Universal God

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Commentary will tell us that this psalm was likely written to accompany a procession with the Ark around the Temple precinct, or even through the city or countryside.  When we look at these verses closely, we see that they contain a list of qualities that describe God’s people: the clean of hand, the pure of heart, those who are not devoted to idols and who do not lie.  God’s power and goodness are affirmed; God is seen as the designer and initiator of creation.  With this song the people celebrate the glory of God and the goodness that resides in his creation . . . the earth.  They also confirm the values God’s faithful will want to espouse: purity and integrity. 

Scripture begins with the creation story we have heard so often that we may move through it too quickly.  When Genesis 1 is read with care, and when it is compared to other creation stories, we will want to join in the singing of this hymn to God who is so much different and so much more wonderful than any other god.

Ancient Mesopotamia was rife with creation stories and many of them elevated a particular god to supremacy over other gods.  This would be done in order to establish superiority of a god’s followers or cult; it would also give prestige to a particular temple, city or town.  These myths frequently gave simple explications for the complexity of nature.  A god generally called a mound of earth out of darkness and water, set up rites and rituals and often deified elements of nature such as the moon, sun or the earth itself.  Some stories describe epic battles between various gods, and humans lack any dignity or purpose other than to serve as a kind of slave.  So we might want to look at what makes the Judeo-Christian creation story different from the rest.  “The Genesis account rejects the central motif of pagan religion: the deification of nature.  Interestingly, it does not seek to elevate Yahweh over other gods.  Indeed, in the seven day creation account (Gen 1:1-2:3) Yahweh is not named . . . Even Genesis 2-3 provides no sense that Yahweh needed to establish his supremacy over other deities.  There is no conquest of other gods or monsters, and no shrine or city is said to be the place from which God began the creation process.  No sacred object is mentioned.  The God of Genesis 1 is indeed the universal God”.  (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 5)

The God of Genesis 1 is our compassionate God who calls order out of chaos, goodness out of evil, light out of the dark.  This universal God wants to celebrate with us and about us. This universal God wants to heal us, transform us, save and redeem us.  This God calls us to purity and honesty, integrity and truth.  This God created the earth and all her goodness for us.  This God does not enslave us but suffers and dies for us.  This God is one we call Father, Brother and Spirit of Love . . . for this God loves us beyond all measure.

Let us join in this hymn of praise to God . . .

The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who live there . . .

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 5. Print.


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 7, 2011.

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Wisdom 1:1-7: Seek Sincerity

Monday, November 20, 2017

We seek wisdom, justice, prudence and restoration of all that has been lost. Old Testament wisdom writers remind the rulers of this world that the solution to chaos lies in the wisdom that lasts forever. And we see wisdom more clearly when we conduct our lives with honesty.

Love justice, you rulers of the world. Set your minds sincerely on the Lord, and look for God with all honesty.

The writers further warn that it is quite easy to slip away from the way God calls us to walk.

Dishonest thoughts separate people from God, and if we are foolish enough to test God, God’s power will put us to shame.

How do we employ this ancient wisdom? What do we do today when we find ourselves engulfed in turmoil? How do we filter the false from the real?

Wisdom is a spirit that is friendly to people, but she will not forgive anyone who speaks against God, for God knows our feelings and thoughts, and hears our every word.

How much do we avoid believing that we can hide our dishonesty from our Creator? What do we do to follow the way of honesty and the wisdom God’s way?

Since the Lord’s spirit fills the entire world, and holds everything in it together, Wisdom knows every word that people say.

These ancient words repeat to us the importance of stripping all deceit from our lives, and the significance of cleaving always to God’s call for integrity and sincerity.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to compare other translations of these verses, we fog of confusion rises to reveal God’s way of integrity.

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Nehemiah 5: Self-Interest

Monday, October 16, 2017

How does Nehemiah confront oppression in the process of rebuilding Jerusalem? When we examine this chapter of his story, we find that Nehemiah operates with transparency, honesty, and generosity.

When Nehemiah receives God’s call, he answers it in a very big way; he does not do things in half measures.  We see that he regards his work in re-building as his vocation and he does not take monetary re-payment for the work of the rebuilding.  Nor does he take credit for this amazing feat.  In contrast to his predecessors, he takes no reimbursement for his work in the rebuilding Jerusalem’s city walls and Temple.  He makes both the physical and financial outlay knowing that God will sustain him.  In this way, Nehemiah shows us how to understand our true relationship with our creator.

Nehemiah is an excellent administrator who prays constantly, and who is constantly guided by God.  He is neither self-serving nor glory seeking.  He understands that God does all, and is all. He speaks with God as his good friend and says: Keep in mind, O my God, in my favor all that I did for this people. 

Together with the priest, Ezra, Nehemiah creates a physical structure that enables the faithful to return to Yahweh.  He invites the Jewish people, magistrates and peoples from all nations to his table – something unusual for an observing Jew of his era – yet he listens for God’s voice and does whatever is asked of him to realize the work laid out by his God.  He rises over a foreign king, distant and local enemies, long-entrenched customs, gossip, and even the in-fighting raging around him in order to achieve this incredible goal of taking the rubble that surrounds him in order to participate in the making of God’s kingdom for both God and God’s people.

We, today, can be new Nehemiahs.  We can create around us structures that are collegial, safe, and predictable.  We can form relationships that are open, honest, and supportive.  We can refrain from nay-saying, gossip and destructive thinking.  We can seek solutions, listen more than we talk, think of self last, and remember that God does all and is all.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 23, 2007.

Tomorrow, praying with Nehemiah.

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Proverbs 14: Lady Wisdom and Sir Fool 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Melanie Rogers: Portrait of Lady Wisdom

We have visited this chapter of Proverbs before during Lent to see if we might use these axioms to help us examine our lives. Today we reprise this thinking.

The title of this chapter in THE MESSAGE translation is, “The Road that leads to Hell,” and it begins with these verses.

Lady Wisdom builds a lovely home;
    Sir Fool comes along and tears it down brick by brick.

Just when we believe we have found sure footing, Sir Fool comes along to tempt us out of our commitment to living in Christ. The writers reference frivolous talk, derisive smiles, false witnessing, cynicism, and ridicule.

There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough;
    look again—it leads straight to hell.
Sure, those people appear to be having a good time,
    but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.

As a counterweight to destructive behavior, an opposing way of living presents itself. Positive advice open-mindedness, true witness, honesty, a strong ox for the plow, and holy living. And amid all these axioms we find this nugget.

The person who shuns the bitter moments of friends
    will be an outsider at their celebrations.

The advice to abide with those who suffer is a harbinger to the words and actions Jesus offers as he preaches and lives out the Beatitudes.

John Watson Nicol: The Court Jester

In verses 14-35, we again hear the recommendation to sift and weigh every word. We do well to remember that meanness, keeping the company of fools, putting prudence aside, making decisions with hot heads and cold hearts, ignoring the needy, subscribing to conspiracy, and exploiting the powerless are all actions that bring our own demise. And again, this negative way of living is balanced against the positive. A final reminder calls us to think about what we are doing, and to act with understanding, integrity, honesty, and holiness.

Lady Wisdom is at home in an understanding heart—
    fools never even get to say hello.

Today we have the opportunity to reflect again on what we do and why we do it. Do we wish to greet and abide with Lady Wisdom or Sir Fool?

Find the Beatitudes at Matthew 5:1-12, and enter the word into the blog search bar for reflections on this Law of Love. 

When we compare other translations of these verses, we explore the difference between Lady Wisdom and Sir Fool. To visit another Noontimes post on this chapter, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/03/13/proverbs-14-axioms-for-living/

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Proverbs 1:1-7: God’s Instruction

Monday, July 17, 2017

A riddle of the wise: The path of wisdom begins with awe of the LORD. 

To instruct the young, and to encourage the wise. These are the goals of the Book of Proverbs. Over the next days, we will explore this didactic poetry whose primary our purpose is to teach wisdom. We notice specific words and phrases.

Wisdom and disciplineDo we notice that those who are wise live a disciplined life. They pray regularly and consult God before drawing conclusions or making decisions.

Words of intelligenceDo we see that those who are intelligent willingly consult God as a primary resource?

What is right, just and honest – Can we define these qualities or are we willing to allow God to unfold these talents in us?

Resourcefulness – Do we think of wisdom as a source of our own creativity?

Knowledge and discretion – How well do we handle the emotions and feelings of others? What do we do with the information that comes our way?

Sound guidanceGod gives us constant direction, even when we do not hear or see it. Are we open to the presence of the Spirit in all ways and on all days?

Proverb and parableWe open ourselves to the great wealth the proverbs bring to us; and we realize that our lives are living parables to others. Do we live each day as if we believe this?

Riddles of the wiseThe mystery of God’s wisdom rests in the words of sacred scripture and in the healing presence of Jesus among us. Are we willing to trust the riddle of wisdom that lives in our hearts?

Awe of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction fools despise . . . Are these words we can believe? Can we allow our actions each day to rise from the wisdom God has planted in us? Do we hope to be numbered among the wise, or are we content to find company with fools?

When we compare different versions of these verses, we find wisdom awaiting us with open arms. 

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2 Chronicles 34Serving the Lord

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Leonaert Bramer: The Scribe Shaphan Reading the Book of the Law to King Josiah

Leonaert Bramer: The Scribe Shaphan Reading the Book of the Law to King Josiah

A Favorite from October 10, 2009.

Several years ago we looked at a portion of this chapter in which we see the story of a leader and a people who come back to Yahweh, back to a life of honesty and integrity.  Here is the brief reflection.

2 Chronicles 34:14 to the end – This is where the young king Josiah ushers in reforms after the corruption which causes the Jewish kingdom to be invaded.  They find the book of the law left with them by Moses and this young king realizes how derelict he and his people have been.  He tries to make reparations and is rewarded with a new covenant.

We might think about how we try to balance making reparations without enabling people to continue bad behavior.  It is such a tight-wire walk.

The tight-wire is the razor’s edge we call living a life in Christ.  Nepotism, a coveting of power, and a desire to live life as we see best rather than as God sees, always leads to downfall.  Downfall often leads to exile.  Return from exile is a gift sometimes granted by God; and we ought not miss the opportunity it brings us to reform, transform and restore.

Josiah cleanses the temple.  He and the people weep as they hear the law read out which ought to govern their lives; they acknowledge that they have strayed.  They work faithfully to restore the structures of the temple that housed the God who chose to live with them.  They put aside their desire for comfort, they turn away from a life in which they idolized themselves, and they renew their covenant agreement with God.

The tight-wire walk re-commences, and a people once lost in themselves returns to serve the Lord.

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1 Maccabees 8: Peace

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gladiators in the time of Pax Romana

Gladiators in the time of Pax Romana

Adapted from a Favorite written on February 15, 2009.

Some of us are expert at allowing the charade of peace to play out for a lifetime.  We smile stiffly and turn a blind eye to a friend or family member who revels in behavior which the world sees as unhealthy.  We have become adept at turning away conveniently when someone in power acts in abusive and addictive ways.  If we did not actually see the behavior, we tell ourselves, it is not there.  We somehow delude ourselves into thinking that the power plays acted out between others will never be turned on us, and for that reason we sink to stroking the abuser rather than rebuking the act.

The symbols of Jewish worship carried off by conquerors

The instruments of Jewish worship are carried off by conquerors.

The Maccabees sought to create an atmosphere in which they might worship God freely; but they were unable to see that the power they thought might protect them would, in the end, turn in on them.  They, like so many of us, believed that a haven might be created if they might just keep peace rather than try to make peace, if they might just settle for what they could get rather than petition God for what the world deserves: justice, mercy and compassion.

peaceGod’s love is the only peace worth seeking.  It is the only peace that lasts.  It is the only peace that heals, transforms and redeems.  When we seek love, are we willing to settle for what makes us comfortable?  Or are we willing to accept nothing less than the pure truth, honesty and constancy that bring lasting serenity?  This choice is always ours to make.  To whom do we send our ambassadors?  Whose voice do we wait to hear whisper in the desperate hour of the darkest night?  Whose face do we long to see?  Whose touch do we yearn to feel?  Whose love do we await?  With whom do we sign our own Pax Romana?

For more on the Roman Peace, click on the first two images above or visit: http://www.elixirofknowledge.com/2014/03/history-mystery-pax-romana-roman-peace.html and http://academic.mu.edu/meissnerd/gladiators.html

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