“We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—HEBREWS 13:18.
1, 2. Why is Jehovah pleased when he sees our efforts to be honest? Illustrate.
A MOTHER and her little boy leave a store together. Suddenly, the child stops, a look of shock on his face. In his hand he is holding a small toy that he picked up in the store. He forgot to put it back or to ask his mother if she would buy it. He cries out to her, distressed. She reassures him and takes him back into the store so that he can return the item and apologize. As he does so, the mother’s heart swells with joy and pride. Why?
2 Few things delight parents more than seeing that their children are learning the importance of honesty. And so it is with our heavenly Father, “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) As he watches us grow to spiritual maturity, he is pleased to see us striving to be honest. Because we want to please him and remain in his love, we echo the sentiments expressed by the apostle Paul: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) Let us focus on four main areas of life in which we may at times find it a special challenge to be honest. Then we will consider some of the blessings that come as a result.
HONESTY WITH OURSELVES
3-5. (a) How does God’s Word warn us about the dangers of self-deception? (b) What will help us to be honest with ourselves?
3 Our first challenge is to learn to be honest with ourselves. It is very easy for us as imperfect humans to succumb to self-deception. For instance, Jesus told the Christians in Laodicea that they had fooled themselves into thinking that they were rich when, in fact, they were “poor and blind and naked” spiritually—a truly pitiable state. (Revelation 3:17) Their self-deception only made their situation more dangerous.
4 You may recall, too, that the disciple James warned: “If any man thinks he is a worshipper of God but does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he is deceiving his own heart, and his worship is futile.” (James 1:26) If we were to reason that we could misuse our tongue and still worship Jehovah acceptably, we would succeed only in deceiving our own heart. Our worship of Jehovah would be futile, an utter waste. What can keep us from such a sad course?
5 In that same passage, James likens the truth of God’s word to a mirror. He advises us to peer into God’s perfect law and make adjustments accordingly. (Read James 1:23-25.) The Bible can help us to be honest with ourselves and to see what we need to do to improve. (Lamentations 3:40; Haggai 1:5) We may also pray to Jehovah and ask him to examine us, helping us to see and to address any serious flaws. (Psalm 139:23, 24) Dishonesty is an insidious weakness, and we need to view it as our heavenly Father does. Proverbs 3:32 says: “Jehovah detests a devious person, but His close friendship is with the upright.” Jehovah can help us to feel as he does and to see ourselves as he sees us. Remember that Paul said: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly.” We cannot be perfect now, but we sincerely desire and earnestly seek to be honest.
HONESTY IN THE FAMILY
6. Why do marriage mates need to be honest with each other, and what dangers do they thus avoid?
6 Honesty should be a hallmark of the Christian family. Husband and wife, then, must be open and honest with each other. There is no room in a Christian marriage for such hurtful, unclean practices as flirting with those outside the marriage, cultivating clandestine relationships via the Internet, or using pornography in any form. Some married Christians have taken up such wrong conduct while concealing it from an innocent mate. Doing so is dishonest. Notice the words of faithful King David: “I do not associate with deceitful men, and I avoid those who hide what they are.” (Psalm 26:4) If you are married, never engage in conduct that might tempt you to hide what you are from your mate!
7, 8. What Bible examples can help children to learn the value of honesty?
7 In teaching their children the value of honesty, parents are wise to make use of Bible examples. On the negative side, there are such accounts as that of Achan, who stole and attempted to cover his theft; Gehazi, who lied for the sake of financial gain; and Judas, who stole and lied spitefully to harm Jesus.—Joshua 6:17-19; 7:11-25; 2 Kings 5:14-16, 20-27; Matthew 26:14, 15; John 12:6.
8 On the positive side, there are such accounts as that of Jacob, who urged his sons to return money they found in their bags because he felt that it might have been put there by mistake; that of Jephthah and his daughter, who honored her father’s vow at great personal sacrifice; and that of Jesus, who bravely identified himself before a vicious mob in order to fulfill prophecy and protect his friends. (Genesis 43:12; Judges 11:30-40; John 18:3-11) This partial list may give parents a taste of the riches found in God’s Word that can help them teach their children to love and value honesty.
9. What should parents avoid if they want to set an example of honesty for their children, and why is such an example important?
9 Such teaching places an important obligation on parents. The apostle Paul asked: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching, ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal?” (Romans 2:21) Some parents confuse their children by teaching about honesty while acting dishonestly themselves. They may justify petty theft and deceptive words with such excuses as “Oh, they expect people to take these things” or “That was just a little white lie, a fib.” In reality, stealing is stealing, regardless of the value of the item stolen, and lying is lying, regardless of the subject matter or the scope of the untruth. * (Read Luke 16:10.) Children are quick to detect hypocrisy and may be seriously damaged by it. (Ephesians 6:4) However, when they learn honesty from their parents’ examples, they may well grow up to glorify Jehovah in this dishonest world.—Proverbs 22:6.
HONESTY IN THE CONGREGATION
10. Regarding honest communication among fellow believers, what cautions do we need to keep in mind?
10 Associating with fellow Christians affords us many opportunities to develop honesty. As we learned in Chapter 12, we need to be careful in the way we use the gift of speech, particularly among our spiritual brothers and sisters. Casual talk can so easily turn into harmful gossip, even slander! If we repeat a story of uncertain origin, we may be helping to spread a lie, so it is much better to control our lips. (Proverbs 10:19) On the other hand, we may know something to be true, but that does not mean that it is worth saying. For example, the matter may be none of our business, or it may be unkind to speak about it. (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Some people excuse rudeness by calling it honesty, but our words should always be gracious and kind.—Read Colossians 4:6.
11, 12. (a) In what ways do some who become involved in serious wrongdoing compound the problem? (b) What are some lies that Satan promotes regarding serious sins, and how may we combat them? (c) How can we show ourselves honest with Jehovah’s organization?
11 It is particularly important that we be honest with those taking the lead in the congregation. Some who become involved in serious wrongdoing compound the problem by trying to cover up their sin and lying to congregation elders when asked about it. Such ones even begin to lead a double life, pretending to serve Jehovah while pursuing a course of serious sin. In effect, such a course turns a person’s whole life into a lie. (Psalm 12:2) Others tell the elders part of the truth while concealing essential facts. (Acts 5:1-11) Such dishonesty often stems from believing in lies that Satan promotes.—See the box “Satanic Lies Regarding Serious Sins.”
12 It is also important to be honest with Jehovah’s organization when we answer questions in writing. For example, when we report our activity in the ministry, we are careful not to falsify the facts. Similarly, when we fill out an application for some privilege of service, we should never misrepresent the real state of our health or any other aspect of our record.—Read Proverbs 6:16-19.
13. How can we maintain honesty if we have a business relationship with a fellow believer?
13 Our honesty with fellow believers also extends to matters of business. At times, Christian brothers and sisters may engage in business dealings together. They should be careful to keep such matters separate from the worship they carry out together at the Kingdom Hall or in the ministry. The business relationship may be that of an employer and an employee. If we employ brothers or sisters, we would be careful to treat them honestly, paying them in a timely way, in the amount agreed upon, and with the benefits arranged for or required by law. (1 Timothy 5:18; James 5:1-4) Conversely, if we are employed by a brother or a sister, we give the full amount of work for our wages. (2 Thessalonians 3:10) We do not expect preferential treatment because of our spiritual relationship, as if our employer owes us time off, benefits, or other advantages not accorded to other employees.—Ephesians 6:5-8.
14. When Christians engage in a joint business venture, what precaution do they wisely take, and why?
14 What if our business involves some kind of joint venture, perhaps an investment or a loan? The Bible provides an important and useful principle: Put everything down in writing! For example, when Jeremiah bought a plot of land, he had a document made out in duplicate, duly witnessed, and safely stored for future reference. (Jeremiah 32:9-12; see also Genesis 23:16-20.) When doing business with fellow believers, putting all the details into a carefully prepared, signed, and witnessed document does not imply distrust. Rather, it helps to prevent misunderstandings, disappointments, and even divisive disagreements from arising. Any Christians doing business together should keep in mind that no business venture is ever worth endangering the unity and peace of the congregation. *—1 Corinthians 6:1-8.
HONESTY IN THE SECULAR WORLD
15. How does Jehovah feel about dishonest business practices, and how do Christians respond to such popular trends?
15 A Christian’s honesty is not limited to the congregation. Paul said: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) When it comes to secular business matters, our Creator is very interested in honesty. In the book of Proverbs alone, there are several references to dishonest scales. (Proverbs 11:1; 20:10, 23) In ancient times, it was common to use scales and weights in business transactions in order to weigh out the goods purchased and the money used to purchase them. Dishonest merchants would use two sets of weights and an inaccurate scale to deceive and cheat their customers. * Jehovah hates such practices! To remain in his love, we strictly avoid any and all dishonest business practices.
16, 17. What forms of dishonesty are common in today’s world, and what are true Christians resolved to do?
16 Because Satan is the ruler of this world, we are not surprised to find that dishonesty is all around us. Daily we may face temptations to be dishonest. When people write up a résumé to apply for work, it is a common practice to lie and exaggerate, inventing credentials and falsifying experience. When people fill out forms for immigration, taxation, insurance, and the like, they commonly give false answers in order to get what they want. Many students cheat on tests, or when they write papers and reports for school, they may go to the Internet and plagiarize what they find there, falsely presenting someone else’s work as their own. And when people deal with corrupt officials, they often offer bribes to get what they want. We expect as much in a world where so many are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . without love of goodness.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
17 True Christians are resolved not to engage in any of those practices. What makes honesty a challenge at times is that those who do engage in such dishonest ways seem to succeed and even get ahead in today’s world. (Psalm 73:1-8) Meanwhile, Christians may suffer financially because they wish to remain honest “in all things.” Is it worth the sacrifices involved? Absolutely! But why? What blessings result from honest conduct?
THE BLESSINGS OF BEING HONEST
18. Why is a reputation for honesty of great value?
18 There are few things you will ever find in life that are more valuable than a reputation as an honest, trustworthy person. (See the box “How Honest Am I?”) And think of it—anyone can build such a reputation! It does not depend on your talent, wealth, looks, social background, or any other factor beyond your control. Nonetheless, many fail to acquire the treasure of a good reputation. It is a rarity. (Micah 7:2) Some may scoff at you for being honest, but others will appreciate your honesty, and they will reward you with their trust and their respect. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have even found that their honesty benefited them financially. They have kept their jobs when dishonest employees were fired, or they have found a job when honest employees were desperately needed.
19. How can a life course of honesty affect our conscience and our relationship with Jehovah?
19 Whether that happens to you or not, you will find that honesty brings even greater blessings. You will have the blessing of a clean conscience. Paul wrote: “We trust we have an honest conscience.” (Hebrews 13:18) Furthermore, your reputation never goes unnoticed by our loving heavenly Father, and he loves honest people. (Read Psalm 15:1, 2; Proverbs 22:1.) Yes, being honest helps you to remain in God’s love, and we seek no higher reward than that. Let us next consider a related subject: Jehovah’s view of work.
^ par. 9 In the congregation setting, a practice of flagrant, malicious lying—clearly intended to hurt others—may warrant judicial action on the part of the elders.
^ par. 15 They used one set of weights for buying and another for selling, favoring themselves either way. They might also use a scale with one arm longer or heavier than the other so that they could cheat the customer on any transaction.