St Dunstan’s

Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England

St Dunstan's James Tomkins 2

James’ Message

Dear Friends,

There’s a story of a woman stopping off on her way back from work to buy a chicken for her dinner. As it was near closing time, the butcher went round the back of his shop, picked up the last chicken he had, put it on the scales behind the counter and told the woman its weight. She thought for a moment. “I really need a bit more chicken than that,” she said. “Do you have any larger ones?” Without a word, the butcher picked up the chicken, went round the back again, groped around as though he was finding another one, and then picked the same chicken up and placed it on the scales. “This chicken weighs one pound more,” he announced. The woman pondered her options and then said, “Okay, I’ll take both of them”.

I’m sure that we’ve all heard it said that “honesty is the best policy”. On the face of it, it seems a straight forward enough statement, something that we know that we should always do. But then there are those potentially awkward situations we face where we might be tempted to bend the truth a little, be economical with the facts, respond with a fairly neutral remark or go off at a tangent. I wonder what you might think if I invited you into our house, which we’d recently redecorated from top to bottom, and I asked your opinion of the colour scheme and carpets we’d chosen. I think our house looks very homely and reflects all the time and hard work we put into decorating it. But if you don’t like pale, pastel colours, I wonder what you might think of it, what would you say? All of a sudden, honesty might seem a wonderful virtue in theory, but much more difficult to put into practice. You want to be polite, but you’re also called to be honest.

One minister in a church, when he called for total honesty within his congregation, asked them to think before they spoke. He explained what he meant by this, by taking each letter from the word ‘think’ and making up five questions from them, so his congregation literally had to think about what they said before they actually said it. For ‘t’ he asked is it true? For ‘h’ he asked will it help? For ‘i’ he asked is it inspiring? For ‘n’ he asked is it necessary? And for ‘k’ he asked is it kind? His aim was to provide a framework for the congregation so that they could encourage each other in their friendships by thinking before speaking.

Honesty is very difficult. This is part of our human condition and one of the ways in which we fall short of the glory of God. It is hard to be honest with other people, but especially difficult to be honest with ourselves and before God. When we are honest about our own shortcomings, when we are prepared to think about and speak the truth in our dealings with others, then we bring ourselves closer to God, who is the God of all truth. We also allow others to see that truth in us. We open ourselves up to the possibilities of new growth and the healings of past hurts, because the truth will set us free. We can’t hide the truth from God.  Every word, every action, every thought is done in his presence. So it’s important that we think carefully, so that we can be honest to ourselves, honest to others and honest to God.

With all good wishes,