No one who practices deceit
shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue before my eyes.
The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty).
“You don’t want to fail, do you?” Kent was getting impatient. He and Don had been going over this for 15 minutes, and Don still wasn’t sure.
“It’s cheating, Kent,” Don said. “And if we get caught, then what?”
“We won’t get caught,” Kent said. “And every one of Miss Gill’s classes has done it for years.”
Kent was right. Miss Gill gave some of the most notoriously difficult vocabulary quizzes on record, and her gifted (you read that right – gifted!) classes had figured out a system. They found where she kept her test masters, copied the answers and passed them out to everyone in the class.
After they had gotten low grades on quizzes for the first month or two of class, their grades started to climb. They intentionally got scores in the 80s for a week or two, then got into the 90s. Every week, one or two students would get less than 100 so that she wouldn’t get suspicious. And she never did – not for the five years that it had been going on.
Now it was into the sixth year, and Kent had gotten the inside scoop from one of last year’s juniors. He had gotten most of the class on-board, but Don was waffling. “It won’t work unless we all do it,” Kent said. “And everyone has done this. What will it hurt?”
What do you think Don did? If you said he gave in and cheated, you’d be right. And everyone’s grade rose, just as in the previous years. Until one day Don got careless. He went into Miss Gill’s office to get answers, and she walked in. A three-day suspension was his reward, and he barely passed Miss Gill’s class. While he didn’t turn any of the other students in, Miss Gill changed up the tests. They got incredibly hard again, and the quiz grades went down.
The worst part was that Miss Gill, who had been a friend to Don and the rest of the class, was deeply hurt by his actions. The answer to Kent’s questions, “What will it hurt,” is simply, “Miss Gill.” Plus, it hurt Don’s reputation and damaged his integrity. It made his parents trust him less, and it hurt his chances to pass a course that he was passing with flying colors. It turns out that cheating hurt a lot.
It always does. Cheating never really pays off in the long run, even if you think you’re getting away with it. Someone always finds out, and the price is steep. Bernie Madoff swindled people out of billions of dollars. He’ll likely spend out all of his remaining years behind bars. Lance Armstrong thrilled the world by winning seven straight Tour de France cycling races – before being stripped of those titles because he was found to have used drugs to improve his performance. Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez should be easy candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the belief that they’ve both used steroids to improve their hitting will probably end those hopes.
Even if none of those guys (or even Don) had been caught, cheating would still be costly because God knew. It’s a sin in his book, and he wants no part of it. People who follow the Lord should be known as completely honest without a hint of deceit.
You may never be tempted to cheat, but if you are, pray to the Lord that He will help you stay strong and do the right thing – look in the other direction and stay honest. An clean conscience with an honest failing grade is better than a boatload of guilt with a passing one.
Reflection copyright © 2015 Doug DeBolt
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.