Young People Ask . . .
Honesty—Is It Really the Best Policy?
NOT long ago a poll was taken at an American university. In it, more than a third of the school’s undergraduates said they had cheated on an examination at least once during college. Nor is cheating confined to students. A different study reported that professors may give students undeservedly high grades to protect their own popularity or budget.
In Japan someone sold copies of the entrance exam of a university—not to students, but to their parents, who were desperate to get their children into the school. The price of those exam papers? Ten million yen per child ($40,000, U.S.)! Rather than face the police, a school administrator implicated in the case hurled himself under a Tokyo train.
It seems that neither parents, students nor teachers believe that ‘honesty is the best policy’ anymore. How do you feel about it?
Granted, cheating may be the easy way out of a tight spot, but what are the long-term effects? Does your school teach swimming? Suppose you cheat your way through class and never learn to swim. Are you going to feel smart next summer when everybody else is having fun in the water and you are stuck on land? If you are pushed into a pool, your cheating could cause you to drown!
Cheating at math or reading may not have such dramatic results, but it can be just as bad. No piece of paper will allow you to keep a job for long if you don’t have the skills for it. If you start to “sink” in the job market, a diploma or a degree that you got by cheating won’t be much of a life preserver.
There is an even more important reason for you not to cheat—your relationship with God. Have you thought about that?
The Bible has a lot to say about the kind of people God likes and wants for his friends. In Psalm 15 it says: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?”—Ps 15 Verse 1.
The answer to that question is found in the next four verses of the psalm. Let’s consider them.
“He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart.” (Ps 15 Verse 2) Does that sound like a shoplifter, or a cheater? Is it the description of someone who lies to his parents or ‘plays the part,’ pretending to be something he is not? To the contrary! If you want to be a friend of God you need to be honest, not only in your actions, but in your heart as well. You must have pure motives.
“He has not slandered with his tongue. To his companion he has done nothing bad, and no reproach has he taken up against his intimate acquaintance.” (Ps 15 Verse 3) Cheating is not the only form of dishonesty. Have you ever allowed yourself to go along with a group of youths who were making unkind comments about someone else, ‘cutting him down’? Generally, such comments are exaggerated and unfair—dishonest! If you develop strength of willpower to refuse to participate in such talk, it can favorably reflect on your relationship with God.
“In his eyes anyone contemptible is certainly rejected, but those fearing Jehovah he honors. He has sworn to what is bad for himself, and yet he does not alter.” (Ps 15 Verse 4) Good association will help you to avoid dishonesty. If you make friends with youths who lie or cheat, they will expect you to do the same things. Often such young people brag about their exploits, comparing notes, and daring one another to ever more brazen acts. While such people may seem clever and glamorous to one another, how do you think God views them?
Did you notice that Jehovah appreciates people who keep their word? That is an important part of honesty. Perhaps you promised to help out around the house this Saturday, but now you have been invited to a ball game for that afternoon. In effect, you have ‘sworn to what seems to be bad for yourself.’ Now, what are you going to do? Will you treat your word lightly, leaving your parents to do your chores while you go to the game, or will you keep your word?
Remember that Jehovah has always kept his promises to mankind, even at great cost to himself. Back in the garden of Eden he promised to supply a deliverer who would be ‘bruised in the heel’ but who would also redeem obedient mankind from their sinful condition. (Genesis 3:15) Jehovah kept that promise, even though it meant allowing his dearly beloved Son to die on a torture stake, something that no doubt pained God deeply. (Romans 8:32) No wonder Jehovah appreciates people who keep their word!
“His money he has not given out on interest, and a bribe against the innocent one he has not taken. He that is doing these things will never be made to totter.” (Ps 15 Verse 5) Isn’t it true that greed is a major cause of cheating and dishonesty? Students who cheat on tests are greedy for grades that they have not studied hard enough to deserve. People who dishonestly take bribes value money ahead of justice. God doesn’t want such people for his friends!
Of course, people will say, ‘You have to be dishonest if you are going to get ahead in the world.’ They can point to plenty of political and business leaders who bend rules to get their way. But how solid is the success of such persons? Overnight they can lose the influence and respect they have built up over a lifetime.
‘But what of those dishonest persons who are never caught?’ youths may ask. Really, though, what are they getting away with? They are not fooling God, are they? No, but they are fooling themselves. They don’t realize just how brief their “success” in life really is. “Do not show yourself heated up because of the evildoers,” advises the Bible writer. “Do not be envious of those doing unrighteousness. For like grass they will speedily wither, and like green new grass they will fade away.” (Psalm 37:1, 2) In comparison to everlasting life, what do a dishonest person’s fleeting days of glory amount to?
In contrast, did you note the promise made to God’s friends at the end of Psalm 15? They “will never be made to totter.” Their eternal future is assured. Psalm 37 puts it this way: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Ps 37 Verses 10, 11.
When you consider the eternal benefits of God’s friendship, isn’t it obvious that honesty IS the best policy, because honesty is right?
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Lots of students do it!
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With your parents, have you ever pretended to be something you were not?
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But what about those that get away with it?