In November, a professional golfer, J. P. Hayes, was playing in a PGA golf tournament with much riding on his performance. He had not had a good year and needed to do well to keep his PGA card that would allow him to play in a full slate of tournaments in 2009. During this tournament, he had used a golf ball to finish a hole that he had not started the hole with; that is against the rules. When he discovered this, he immediately went to officials and informed them, and it cost him a 2 stroke penalty. But the story does not end there. In a later round of the same tournament, he was given a ball to play by his caddie, which was experimental and given him by the manufacturer to test for them. This ball had not yet been approved for use by the PGA. He did not discover this error until in his hotel room after the round. The next day he went to the officials to inform them, and was disqualified from the tournament. His action had the potential to cost him millions of dollars in earnings on the 2009 PGA golf tour. When asked why he did this when only he knew his error, he said it was the right thing to do. Many sports analysts questioned such an action when only he knew and had “gotten away with it.” Some quoted the old NASCAR adage, “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’!” I don’t know much about Mr. Hayes and can’t speak to his honor away from the golf course, but I can tell you that he is an honorable man on the golf course.
Honor and right doing are things that seem to be less and less admired by many. Thus, it is practiced less and less by many. If one can “get away with it,” why not just go on and do it? When we see corporate greed gripping its executives so firmly they will do wrong, even when the probability of being discovered is great, we have a real moral problem in our society. Doing right does not seem to impress people anymore.
God’s people, above all others, will do right no matter what the cost or whether others know or care that they are practicing honor before God. Jesus did the will of His Father, even though it cost Him His life. The apostles taught about Jesus when warned not to. In Acts 4:19-20 and 5:29, they said they had no choice but do what was right in God’s sight even when it went against the wishes of man and could cost them their freedom or lives.
The attitude of doing wrong as long as we are not found out is foreign to God’s teaching. Oh, we may take comfort in the fact that none of our friends, family or fellow Christians know about our sin, but God lets us know He knows. Jesus tells us in Luke 8:17 nothing is hidden that will not be made known and what is done in secret will come to light. In Romans 2: 16, we are told God will judge our secrets according to the gospel through Christ Jesus. God’s children are to do right in the sight of God and do right in the sight of man according to Romans 12:17 and 2 Corinthians 8:21. Christians are to be people of integrity.
Christians do what is right simply because it is right. We can only do this when we understand what is right and are trained by the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us the Word of God equips us to do what is right. Do you want to practice right, whether seen or not? Practice God’s word. If we dwell on unrighteousness, we will practice unrighteousness. If we dwell on righteousness, we practice righteousness. Philippians 4:8-9 explains how we can grow to the point where we practice right without having to think long and hard about every situation in which we find ourselves. We are a people who practice right without having to weigh the cost; we already know the reward. I am proud of Mr. Hayes for his integrity in light of the huge cost he faces. I am proud of God’s people when they practice the teaching, without hesitation, of Philippians 4:8 (NASB) and “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your minds dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you.”