Cheaters always have their day of reckoning.
My one venture into the land of cheating was an abortive attempt. Several of us boys decided to prepare for a high school chemistry test by creating crib sheets. As it turned out, I was the only one who prepared a cheat sheet, but the exam was easy for me to answer, so I did not need to use my concealed notes.
One of my buddies was struggling to answer the questions, so when the teacher was out of the room, he motioned for me to share my notes. As he was returning the notes to me, someone dropped them. The professor returned just in time to see the paper fall, and asked, "To whom does this sheet belong?"
Although I had not used the notes, I had to raise my hand, in great embarrassment. The result was a week's stay in detention hall after school and a failing grade on the test.
In addition, penciled on my otherwise clean permanent record were the words, "caught cheating." I was told that if no other such infraction was committed between then and graduation, I could ask to have the penciled comment erased. I lived for the day when I could have those two words erased from my record.
I also felt angry at the time because the friend who benefited from my notes escaped without a penalty. He even received a good grade. I consoled myself by recalling that cheaters always have their day of reckoning.
I had a friend in college who graduated with honors, and everyone knew he had cheated. I wonder what happened to him. How can anyone be proud of gaining an award dishonestly? I did not graduate with honors from Georgia Tech, but I am proud of the one AA, a few A's and B's, and lots of C's earned honestly.
I wonder how proud Jacob felt about cheating his brother, Esau, out of his birthright. He surely wasn't able to enjoy his new status for very long, for his mother hurried him away to her brother's home because of the wrath of Esau.
We always fear the one we have wronged, and as Jacob slowly made his way back to Canaan, he became more and more anxious the closer he came to having to face the one whom he had cheated.
Jacob was just a little paranoid because of his guilty feelings. When he looked up and saw Esau coming toward him with 400 soldiers, he imagined Esau telling Jacob's scouts, "Go back and tell that cheating rascal that I have never forgotten what he did to me. Tell him that I have come to seek revenge and to fight to the finish."
Instead, Esau met Jacob with an embrace and tears, which had nothing to do with Esau's forgive-and-forget attitude. Neither was it because of Jacob's generous presents, which were designed to melt Esau's wrath. The second time Jacob offered his gifts to Esau he used the Hebrew word "blessing" rather than "presents." He could not return the blessing he had deceived Isaac into giving him, but he could give his brother gifts that stood for a blessing.
What we read in Genesis 33 has to do with God's merciful protection and divine intervention. God is determined to keep his word, no matter how much we try to thwart his divine purpose. With all of the anxiety and worry that Jacob went before meeting Esau, God must have felt that he had had his "day of reckoning."
In addition, Jacob survived his confrontation with his brother because he prayed (Genesis 32:9-12) and because his character was changed the night he wrestled with God.
May his example reveal what we can do to prevail over the times we succumb to the temptation to cheat. When we are truly sorry for what we have done, God is always ready to erase from our permanent record the words, "caught cheating." But, don't forget his parting words, "Now, go and sin no more."