And as for what fell in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. Luke 8:15
For these next few reflections, we will be discussing boundaries that we should hold fast to. Another boundary everyone will encounter involves cheating. There are lots of kinds of cheating. Probably the most common opportunities to cheat include on tests, using work time for non-work things, cheating in sports and cheating on financial things.
There is a common perception that everyone is cheating in some way. Cheating is something that is fairly normalized. If we are not cheating on taxes, we are certainly looking and reaching for every loophole. There are temptations to “buy” something we need to use one time, and then return it for a refund, having used it the one time we needed it.
Cheating is rampant in the work place. It generally occurs in one of two ways. The employees cheat their employer by doing non-work related things while being paid to work. If a person earns $50,000 a year at a job and spends ten percent of the work day on personal calls or social media, that amounts to $5,000 essentially stolen from an employer over the course of a year. If someone stole $5,000 from another person, that would be a felony and someone would go to jail. But we think nothing of “stealing” from employers for personal things.
There are also jobs where employees are almost “required” to cheat. Specifically doctors and lawyers that are required to bill for so many hours, even if it is hours they don’t work. That is not to say that every doctor or lawyer is dishonest, but over the years, I have heard from many of them who feel pressured by their company to be less than honest in how they bill for their time.
Having worked with teenagers for my entire ministry, I know that cheating is rampant in school. Because there is so much pressure to get good grades in order to get in to college, many students cheat because they feel they have to. If they do what is honest and get a “B” and someone else cheats and gets an “A”, the dishonest “A” student is more likely to get into college than the honest “B” student. So many people are cheating because they feel they can’t afford to be honest. This brings two thoughts to my mind. First, is anyone getting through school without cheating? And second, when, if ever, does the cheating stop? The problem with cheating is that it becomes a habit. The world isn’t going to change because an 8th grader cheats on a math test. But if that 8th grader is a serial cheater, and cheats into college and graduate school, becomes an engineer and cheats on building a bridge, that bridge can collapse and kill people, and then cheating becomes a big deal.
I have always believed in school, and in sports, it is better to lose with honesty than win by cheating. In sports, cheating is also rampant. There is the old adage “If you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying,” and that is actually an abominable thought. Most of us have heard of the scandal with the Houston Astros baseball team cheating in order to win a World Series. Whether they strip the team of the title or not, it is going to have an “asterisk” by it forever. And as the scandal unfolds, there are all kinds of cheating methods that are being uncovered. Can anyone make the major leagues without cheating and compromising? Are these really our best baseball players? It makes me seriously question why I would want to keep watching a league of cheaters. Even more sad is that people aren’t just cheating on the top levels but at every level of sports. A few years ago, a little league team had a pitcher that was two years too old playing for them. He wowed the crowds and the team was amazing—but it was all fake.
Where do you stand on cheating? Will you cheat in order to get ahead? What if you have to cheat just to keep up? Where there is no honesty there can be no trust, and where there is no trust, there can be no love, no vulnerability, no authenticity. We just continue the cycle of a fake society where people are discouraged, rather than the honest society where people are empowered.
I’d rather fail at something by doing it honestly than succeed at something by cheating. Even if no one knows. I will know. And God will know. And any victory that isn’t fully earned is a hollow victory. Hold fast to honesty.
Lord, thank You for the gifts You have given me. No one has every gift. Each of us has unique gifts. Help me to appreciate the gifts You have given me and use them to the best of my ability. Help me resist the temptation to be dishonest with my gifts or seek other gifts through dishonest means. Help me to have the humility to accept my limits. And help others to appreciate my gifts and strengths. Amen.
If respect is the basic building block of any human relationship, there cannot be respect if there isn’t honesty. Encourage honesty!