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Honest Abe Lincoln
7/14/2020 11:00:00 PM by: Randy Limbird

No person in American history had a better reputation for honesty than Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. president who freed the nation’s slaves in 1862. Even his nickname was "Honest Abe."

That reputation first became legendary before Lincoln ran for political office, when he was keeping store in New Salem, Illinois. Once he discovered he had overcharged a customer 6 1/4 cents. After closing, he walked three miles that evening to return the money. Another time he realized he had short-changed a customer four ounces of tea, and he delivered the full amount that night.

As a lawyer, he collected debts for his business clients. It was considered normal for bill collectors to keep some of the money, but Lincoln turned over everything.

After he won election for Congress, Lincoln did a report of his campaign finances. Friends had raised $200 for expenses; Lincoln returned $199.25 to them, reporting, "My only outlay was 75 cents for a barrel of cider which some farm hands insisted I should treat to."

In 1850, Lincoln delivered a law lecture. Even then, lawyers had a reputation among some people for dishonesty. "Let no young man, choosing the law for a calling, for a moment yield to this popular belief," Lincoln said. "Resolve to be honest at all events; and if, in your own judgment, you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other profession."

Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, is known for saying, "Honesty is the best policy; but he who is governed by that maxim is not an honest man." (Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin)

Everyone has heard the first part of that quote, but hardly anyone knows the rest. Why does honesty need to be more than just a policy? Why did Lincoln consider honesty so important?

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that a person who longs to be honest and true has a special reward from God: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

Today’s prayer

Dear God, we know that you love honesty and truth. Show us any dishonesty in our lives, and help us to get rid of it. Teach us to be honest in all our dealings with other people. Amen.


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Honest Abe Lincoln
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