I never forget one of my most jolting encounters with the world’s meaning behind the phrase: “You can’t cheat an honest man.”

It occurred nearly 45 years ago when I was yet a young rookie reporter on the staff of the local newspaper.

I remember it well, primarily because it came through an underhanded mean spirited test of my character.

And, down the road, the lesson it provided gave me a greater insight into the power of our Savior’s own words such as follow:

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

I’ll lay out the particulars in this space on this Lord’s Day when and where, I’m persuaded, it is most appropriate:

As part of my rookie training program one fine Monday back in the day, I was assigned to meet  a certain veteran reporter on his beat covering the County Administration.

He was to show me the reporting ropes. And he did until he disappeared from our office right around noontime.

Thinking he’d ducked out for a private lunch, I thought little of it, even when I noticed that he’d left his briefcase, opened, on the floor near a table.

Even when I saw, in the case, a valuable-looking package, I didn’t suspect a  thing – certainly not a setup.

On the contrary, I thought, “Oh, he must have just forgotten his briefcase.”

I then zipped it closed, pushed it further under the table and locked our office door before heading for my own lunch.

When I saw the veteran reporter upon my return, I confirmed that he’d found his briefcase.

And we both laughed.

But some time later, another reporter made it clear to me that I had been set up to see what I would do.

Had I looked at that situation as some sort of opportunity and done anything larcenous, the second reporter said, I might have been fired or jailed; and certainly disgraced.

“But it just goes to show,” he said, “you can’t cheat an honest man.”

“Well, maybe,” I began to think often as time passed.

Surely it had felt like a natural instinct in me to think of doing a good deed for that first reporter.

And what I’d done seemed to help keep me from throwing myself into that a devilish jackpot.

But, for some then unclear reason, I could never feel comfortable patting myself on the back and viewing myself as a totally honest man.

I knew that at another time, in another situation, I might have acted on the temptation to do a larcenous thing.

But then, years later after I finally answered Jesus’ call, I came to believe that it was the Holy Spirit, even then in my worldly days, touching my heart and leading me on the good path.

And it was helping me to more and more see how a good Christian character can keep us away from being tricked.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still weak. I can still be tempted and led astray.

But thanks to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, it’s even harder to do it.

They won’t let anyone  cheat me.

“He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

“He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Ps. 24:4-5).

Ozzie Roberts – June 16, 2019