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Why It Pays to Be Honest

Why It Pays to Be Honest

“We trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”​—Hebrews 13:18.

In the Bible, the original Greek word that is sometimes translated “honesty” literally means “something that is intrinsically good.” It can also carry the meaning of something beautiful to behold in a moral sense.

Christians take seriously the apostle Paul’s inspired words: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” What does that involve?


Most people glance at themselves in a mirror every morning before going out in public. Why? Because they want to look their best. But there is something much more important than having a stylish haircut or fashionable clothes. Indeed, the person we are on the inside can either add to or detract from our outward appearance.

God’s Word frankly admits that we are inclined to do what is bad. “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up,” says Genesis 8:21. Thus, to be honest, we must fight against our inborn sinful tendencies. The apostle Paul gave a vivid description of his own fight against sin, saying: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I see in my body another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my body.”​—Romans 7:22, 23.

For example, when our heart urges us to do what is bad and we have a strong inclination to be dishonest, we do not have to be a slave to our heart’s impulses. We still have a choice in the matter. When we choose to reject a bad thought, we can remain honest despite the dishonesty surrounding us.


To be honest, we need a strong moral code. Sadly, however, many people spend more time deciding on their personal ‘dress code’ than they do on thinking about a personal moral code. As a result, they justify the amount of dishonesty that will suit their situation. The book The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty put it this way: “Essentially, we cheat up to the level that allows us to retain our self-image as reasonably honest individuals.” Is there, though, a reliable standard that can help us decide for ourselves how much​—if any—​dishonesty is acceptable? Thankfully, there is.

Millions of people the world over have found that the Bible perfectly fills that need. The Bible has a moral code that is beyond compare. (Psalm 19:7) It gives reliable guidance on such matters as family life, employment, morality, and spirituality. It has stood the test of time. Its laws and principles apply to all national groups, races, tribes, and peoples. By peering into the Bible, meditating on what it says, and applying its counsel, we can train our heart to be honest and upright.

Still, there is more to winning the battle against dishonesty than gaining an accurate knowledge of the Bible. After all, we live in a morally depraved world that pressures us to accept its corrupt standards. That is why we need to pray to God for his help and support. (Philippians 4:6, 7, 13) By doing so, we can have the courage to stand up for what is right and to be honest in all things.


Hitoshi, quoted in the opening article, profited from having a reputation of being an honest worker. He now works for an employer who appreciates his honesty. “I am thankful,” says Hitoshi, “that I was able to find work that allows me to keep a clean conscience.”

Others have found the same to be true. Consider some examples of those who have benefited by applying the Bible principle to “conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”

  • Clean Conscience

    “I left school at age 13 in order to work with thieves. As a result, 95 percent of my income was obtained by dishonest means. Later, I married, and my husband and I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. We learned that Jehovah * God hates dishonest practices, so we decided to change our lifestyle. In 1990 we dedicated our lives to Jehovah and got baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses.”​—Proverbs 6:16-19.

    “In the past, my house was full of stolen goods, but now it is free from such things; and this gives me a clean conscience. Thinking back over my many years of dishonesty, I am grateful to Jehovah for his great mercy. It is so satisfying to go to sleep each night knowing that Jehovah is now pleased with me.”​—Cheryl, Ireland.

    “When my boss found out that I had turned down a bribe from a potential customer, he said to me: ‘Your God makes you such a trustworthy person! It truly is a blessing to have you here in our company.’ To be honest in all things enables me to have a clean conscience before Jehovah God. It also allows me to help my family and others to do the same.”​—Sonny, Hong Kong.

  • Peace of Mind

    “I work as an executive assistant at an international bank. In this business, honesty is often shoved aside for the sake of gaining wealth. The widespread view is, ‘What’s the harm in a little dishonesty if it promotes wealth and helps the economy?’ But by being honest, I have peace of mind. I am resolved to remain honest and face whatever consequences may come. My employers know that I will not lie to them or for them.”​—Tom, United States.

  • Self-Respect

    “My supervisor at work encouraged me to lie about some missing supplies at work, but I refused. When the thieves were finally revealed, my employer thanked me for being honest. Being honest in a dishonest world calls for courage. But in the end, we can gain the trust and respect of others.”​—Kaori, Japan.

A clean conscience, peace of mind, and self-respect​—such rewards show that it really does pay to be honest. Do you not agree?

^ par. 18 Jehovah is the name of God as revealed in the Bible.