My friend, Don Truex, shared a great story that came out of Wayne, New Jersey last Fall.
Four young men from the William Paterson University football team entered Buddy’s Small Lots to do a little shopping. Soon they realized no one else was in the store. Not even a sales clerk!
It was after store hours, but somehow a lock had malfunctioned. With the store lights on the boys assumed the store was open. One of the boys said, “We were down there for ten minutes, looking for someone. We thought everyone was in the back on break.”
However, instead of taking advantage of an opportunity to leave without paying or even looting the store, the video cameras recorded what happened. They stopped at the checkout counter. Added the total of their merchandise plus tax. Waved the $8.50 for the camera to see. And left it on the counter.
Oh, and then before going to practice, they went to an all-night pharmacy next door and reported that Buddy’s door was unlooked with no one there.
Our word of the week is “character.”
This honesty of these young men reminds me of the famous quote by D. L. Moody, “Character is what you are in the dark.” Or in this case, when a store is empty, the sale clerk is absent, and no one is looking!
The Bible doesn’t use the actual word character very often. Ruth, in the Old Testament, is called a woman of “noble character” (Ruth 3:11). Paul wrote that “endurance develops strength of character” (Rom. 5:4). And the apostle warns that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33).
However, the concept of character is found throughout the pages of Scripture. Character involves the conviction to be true to your core values. trustworthy. Honest. And honorable.
Christian character is respectful of others. Emphatic toward the needs of those hurting and helpless. And humble enough to quietly go about one’s business of doing what he ought to do.
The character of the Christian can be summed up in one word “righteous.” Righteous people think, speak and act in righteous ways. That means with virtue. Purity of life. Moral excellence. Ethical decisions. Honorable actions.
The greatest Bible example of “character” is Christ. In fact, he is called “the true and righteous.” He is identified as “the Righteous Branch” (Jer 23:5). “The Righteous Servant” (Isa 53:11) And “The Righteous Judge” (2 Tim. 4:8).
Look at his life. His attitude. His actions. His relationships. They all exemplify the character qualities we need to emulate.
Too often we can become absorbed in externals. Image. Reputation. What someone may say or think. The President known as honest Abe once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. “ When we cultivate the right kind of character, reputation will naturally take care of itself.
By the way, there’s an interesting epilogue to the story of the football players. After the video camera identified them, the store manager called their Coach and asked to meet them. One player said, “ We thought we were definitely in trouble!”
Actually, Marci Lederman, just wanted to compliment and thank them for their honesty and give them some gift certificates.
Good character has its reward. Maybe not always in the form of gift certificates or accolades on the local news. But we enjoy the calmness of a clear conscience. The inner peace of being right with God. And knowing who we are.
Of course, God knows. Sees. And rewards.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman