It Pays to Be Honest
DISHONESTY has existed since the garden of Eden. Still, most cultures and societies value honesty and view lying and deception as undesirable and reprehensible. Being considered trustworthy is something to be proud of. Increasingly, though, dishonesty is regarded as necessary in order to survive in modern society. How do you feel about it? Is honesty worth cultivating? What is your standard for deciding what is honest behavior and what is not?
To please God, we must be honest in our speech and in our way of life. The apostle Paul admonished fellow Christians: “Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.” (Ephesians 4:25) Paul also wrote: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) Our motive for being honest is not to receive praise from fellow humans. We are honest because we respect our Creator and want to please him.
Do Not Hide Who You Are
In many countries, people misrepresent themselves to gain advantages in life. They obtain fraudulent documents, diplomas, and identity papers to enter a country illegally or to get a job or a position for which they are not qualified. Some parents falsify their children’s birth certificates so that the children can extend their schooling.
To be pleasing to God, however, we cannot be deceitful. The Bible says that Jehovah is “the God of truth” and that he expects truthfulness from those who have intimacy with him. (Psalm 31:5) If we want to maintain a close relationship with Jehovah, we cannot imitate “men of untruth,” those who “hide what they are.”—Psalm 26:4.
It is also common for people to hide the truth when facing the prospect of being disciplined for wrongdoing. Even in the Christian congregation, a person might be tempted to do so. In one congregation, for example, a young man acknowledged to the elders that he had committed certain sins. However, he did not admit to stealing, even though there was evidence against him. He was eventually found out and had to be disfellowshipped from the congregation. Would it not have been wiser for him to be completely honest and receive help to restore his precious relationship with Jehovah? After all, the Bible says: “Do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.”—Hebrews 12:5, 6.
At times, a brother reaching out for responsibility in the congregation may endeavor to hide personal problems or past misconduct. When filling out an application for a special privilege of service, for example, he may not provide complete answers to questions on health and morals, thinking that the truth on such matters might disqualify him. He may reason, ‘I did not really lie,’ but was he really being straightforward and honest with others? Consider the point made at Proverbs 3:32: “The devious person is a detestable thing to Jehovah, but His intimacy is with the upright ones.”
Being honest means, first of all, being honest with ourselves. We often believe what we want to believe rather than what is right or true. How easy it is for us to shift the blame from ourselves to someone else! For example, King Saul tried to justify his disobedience by putting the blame on others. Consequently, Jehovah rejected him from being king. (1 Samuel 15:20-23) What a contrast to King David, who prayed to Jehovah: “My sin I finally confessed to you, and my error I did not cover. I said: ‘I shall make confession over my transgressions to Jehovah.’ And you yourself pardoned the error of my sins.”—Psalm 32:5.
Honesty Brings Blessings
Honesty, or the lack of it, influences how you are viewed by others. If people learn that you have deceived them even once, you will lose their trust, and that is not easily regained. If, on the other hand, you are truthful and honest, you will build a reputation as a person of integrity, worthy of trust. Jehovah’s Witnesses have earned such a reputation. Consider some examples.
A company director realized that many of his employees were defrauding the company, so he requested police intervention. When he learned that an employee who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was included among those who had been arrested, he went to the police so that the Witness could be released immediately. Why? Because the director knew that this person was an honest worker and that he was innocent. The Witness kept his job, while others were dismissed. His fellow Witnesses rejoiced, knowing that his conduct had brought honor to Jehovah’s name.
Fine conduct does not go unnoticed. In one African community, a bridge spanning a large drainage ditch needed repair because some wooden planks had been stolen. Local residents decided to collect money to replace the planks, but who could be trusted to manage the funds? All agreed that it had to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
When an African country experienced political and ethnic turmoil, a Witness who worked as an accountant for an international company was transferred by his firm, as his life was in danger. The company arranged for him to work for many months in another country at their expense until the situation calmed down. Why? Because previously he had refused to collaborate with those who were scheming to defraud the company. The management was aware of his reputation for impeccable honesty. Would they have been willing to help this employee if he had been known for shady dealings?
“The righteous is walking in his integrity,” states Proverbs 20:7. An honest person is a person of integrity. He never cheats or deceives his fellow man. Is that not how you wish others to treat you? Honesty is basic to true worship. It is an expression of our love for God and neighbor. By being honest, we show our desire to follow the principle of conduct expressed by Jesus: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—Matthew 7:12; 22:36-39.
To be honest at all times may have its price, but the clean conscience that results is worth far more than anything it may cost. In the long run, being honest and upright pays the richest of dividends. The truth is that a good relationship with Jehovah is priceless. Why damage it by resorting to something dishonest in order to save face or gain some illegal advantage? Whatever challenge we may face, we can have confidence in the words of the psalmist: “Happy is the able-bodied man that has put Jehovah as his trust and that has not turned his face to defiant people, nor to those falling away to lies.”—Psalm 40:4.
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True Christians do not buy or use fraudulent documents