Honest Abe


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Bible Reading: Leviticus 19:35-37

Do not use dishonest standards.   Leviticus 19:35

THE FOLLOWING STORY is told about Abraham Lincoln when he was a young man, before he became known as “Honest Abe.”

Abe was working in a store as a clerk. One day a woman came in and bought a few items. Abe jotted down the woman’s charges on a scrap of paper, totaled them for her, and then accepted her payment. After she had left the store, though, Abe started wondering whether he had accurately added up the woman’s purchases. When he added the numbers again, he found out he had charged her too much. It was only a few cents, but Abe felt bad about his mistake. So, at the end of the day, after closing the store, Abe walked the distance (somewhere between two and three miles) to the woman’s house to return the money he had overcharged her.

Another time, he had weighed a half pound of tea for a woman, only to discover the next day that there had been an extra four-ounce weight on the scale. He had given her less than a half pound. As he had done with the few cents, Abe corrected the error by weighing out the missing quantity and delivering it to the woman.

It’s not hard to imagine how Lincoln came to be called “Honest Abe.” After all, in those two instances (and in many others) he went to a lot of trouble to make sure he didn’t cheat anyone and didn’t take anything that wasn’t his. He didn’t try to excuse his mistakes. He didn’t try to shrug them off, saying, “Ah, I didn’t mean to overcharge the lady.” He didn’t try to say that taking that extra money would be OK. Instead, he made sure that his behavior was as honest as he could make it.

That’s exactly how God wants us to act, too. He doesn’t want us to excuse dishonesty or shrug it off. He doesn’t want us to say, “Well, in my case it wouldn’t be dishonest,” or “In this case it wouldn’t be so bad.” No, he wants us to remember that he has already told us what is right and what is wrong—and he has made it clear that honesty is right and dishonesty is wrong.

REFLECT: Do you think Abraham Lincoln did the right thing in the stories above? Do you think he went a little “overboard”? Do you think he deserved to be called “Honest Abe”? Do you ever try to excuse dishonesty or shrug it off? Do you ever try to say something is honest when it’s really not? Or do you try to do what God says to do?

ACT: The next time you buy something in a store, remember Abraham Lincoln’s honesty—and count your change carefully!

PRAY: “Father in heaven, help me always to remember that only you deride what’s right and what’s wrong. And help me to act honestly, knowing that you have commanded it.”


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