Getting an Honest Living
Romans 12:17
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

I. PROVIDE. Such is the message of the whole Bible. Right through industry is commended, idleness anathematised. Need we remind you of Solomon? Paul is quite as good in his way. "If any man will not work, neither shall he eat." Starve them out! Summary procedure, but salutary. Again, "if any provide not for his own, especially of his own house, he hath denied the faith," etc. Yes; for it is part of "the faith once delivered unto the saints" that we should "provide."

1. It is well that we have to do so. No man is to be pitied on account of it. A fine thing is work. It braces the soul like iron, quinine, or water, the body. An experienced African traveller says, " We sicken more from inactivity than from malaria."

2. Provide. What? "Things" —

(1) Necessary. Our absolute wants are to be met.

(2) But luxuries come under the phrase before us. Used in moderation they are not sinful. If they were, God would not set us so bad an example as to give them to us. What is the blush on the apple and the bloom on the peach, the fragrance of the rose and the music of the falling wave? Luxury. The oak not only affords us wood, but adorns the landscape; nor does it yield an inch less wood because it is a thing of beauty. Even so, we shall not be worse, but better, if we have a few good pictures on our walls and ornaments on our tables, if we enjoy the last tale or the newest poem. The infinite Father gives His children toys as well as tools.

3. Don't expect others to provide for you; do it yourself. We should cultivate a manly spirit of independence and self-help. According to a certain gage, every man has three fortunes, a head and a pair of hands; would that all made a diligent use of these fortunes. "God helps those that help themselves," and we should refuse to aid any others.

II. PROVIDE. THINGS HONEST. How may we do that? Nobody will have much difficulty in finding out, if he wishes to make the discovery. There are sundry practices which may well be looked at in the light of the text.

1. It is not an uncommon thing for men to get into debt when they know they have small chance of paying. We are well aware of the mode in which this is palliated. When a mob of rioters were about to attack a flour-mill, Luther stood between it and them. "Master, we must live," they cried. "I don't see that: you 'must' be honest," answered the brave reformer. Existence, precious though it be, is not to be bought at any price. But men are seldom, indeed, called to make such a desperate sacrifice. "Trust in the Lord, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and, verily, thou shalt be fed." "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," etc. Encouraged by these assurances, let none of us compromise his integrity. "Owe no man anything." Rather than involve himself in debt Lord Macaulay sold the gold medals which he had won at Cambridge.

2. Sometimes goods are sold for what they are not. We occasionally speak about "getting goods under false pretences," but are they never got rid of under false pretences? What is the meaning of the common caution, "Beware of spurious imitations"? Think, also, of adulteration. How shamefully is the public sometimes imposed on in what it eats and drinks.

3. It is possible for persons in situations to be lax in their notions of their duty to their employers. If I engage to serve another for a given amount of remuneration for a certain period, I thereby sell him my time, my energy, my talent, and if I withhold it I am not honest.

III. PROVIDE THINGS HONEST IN THE SIGHT OF ALL MEN. Not only be honest, but let your honesty be seen. As Bengel remarks in connection with our text: "A gem should not merely be a gem; it should be properly set in a ring, that its splendour may meet the eye." "In the sight of all men."

1. For our own sakes. In the long run he is trusted who is trustworthy; integrity wins confidence. If I deal with a man and he deceives me, I mentally put a black mark against his name, and warn others of him. Thus his unrighteousness injures him, as, indeed, it ought to do. More money is to be made by going straight than by going crooked.

2. For the Church's sake. Nothing is so prejudicial to the interests of religion as lack of uprightness in men professing to be godly. Such monstrosities remind one of what a traveller saw in a Russian church — to wit, a fellow devoutly counting his rosary with one hand and picking a pocket with the other. Robert Burns wrote, "An honest man's the noblest work of God." He was right.

(T. R. Stevenson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

WEB: Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men.

An Honest Man
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