Honesty—Does It Pay?
1-4. Among younger folks, what evidences of dishonesty have you observed? Why isn’t it really surprising that many young folks do these things? (Isaiah 9:16)
MOST people today don’t think it makes sense to tell the truth all the time. Have you observed that? Many businessmen claim they could not compete successfully without some dishonesty. Advertisements come into our view daily that exaggerate or misrepresent. Though political leaders are supposed to be watching over the public’s welfare, many people view them as untrustworthy.
2 Seeing so much dishonesty among adults, young people often adopt the same course. Many cheat on tests in school or “cut classes” under false pretenses. To their friends they may brag, painting false pictures of what they are or what they have done. At home, they may even deceive their parents—answering questions about their conduct with half-truths, hiding the facts by phrasing their answers so as to give entirely false impressions. If their parents or others try to find out how they feel about immorality, drugs or similar things, they may smoothly cover over the facts, saying what they think those questioning them want to hear, not how they really feel. To get money or permission to do something, they may shower a parent with insincere affection or with flattery.
3 But is this really strange? The fact is, many young people feel they are justified in doing this. Why? Well, it’s true that their parents may teach them that it is wrong to lie. Yet they may see their parents misrepresent facts in order to get out of some unpleasant situation or to avoid paying some bill, debt or tax. Have you noticed that some parents even use their children to falsify for them in giving excuses?
4 Where conditions like these prevail, what encouragement is there for young people—or for any of us—to strive to be honest in all things? In a world where lying, cheating and stealing are so common, how practical and worth while is it for you to hold to what is true? Will it really bring you greater benefit than dishonesty would, and, if so, what kind of benefit?
SHORT-TERM VERSUS LONG-TERM BENEFITS
5-7. Why are any benefits of dishonesty only temporary?
5 Ask yourself: What do I want—a quick gain, an apparent benefit, or that which brings enduring benefits? When you think about it, isn’t it true that any apparent benefits from lying and cheating are short term at best? Yes, God’s Word is really true when it says: “It is the lip of truth that will be firmly established forever, but the tongue of falsehood will be only as long as a moment.”—Proverbs 12:19.
6 Take, as an example, a businessman who misrepresents some product. He may make a sale, but in the process he may lose a customer when the person finds out he was cheated. Or, suppose you were to cheat in school. If not caught, you might get higher grades. But what good would even “straight A’s” be if you got out of school with very little knowledge, maybe not even being able to read or add well?
7 In the end, then, the person who cheats actually cheats himself most of all. Just compare the honest and the dishonest person. And consider some of the things the dishonest person stands to lose and see if you don’t agree that anyone who thinks that dishonesty helps toward a better or happier life is really very shortsighted.
8-10. How is honesty beneficial (a) in one’s secular work? (b) in family relationships? (c) in connection with friends?
8 If you are known for being straightforward and honest in your dealings, you earn the respect and trust of others. The friends you gain are more likely to be genuine because they find you genuine and appreciate this. While it is true that the modern business world is often dishonest, it is also true that employers generally have enough sense to value employees who are honest. A reputation for honesty, then, can bring employment when employment is scarce or aid in holding on to a job when others are losing theirs.
9 At home, honesty contributes to a comfortable, pleasant atmosphere, eliminating doubts or suspicions between marriage partners and between parents and children. When by their honesty children win their parents’ full confidence, usually the parents are willing gradually to grant youngsters more freedom. Granted, telling the truth about some mistake or wrong act can bring discipline. But that discipline may well be lighter because you were honest. Then, if, in the future, you truthfully deny having done some wrong, your explanation is more likely to be believed.
10 Contrast this with the person who gives in to dishonesty to “get out of a pinch” or to gain some advantage. He risks losing all these fine benefits. Because dealing with a dishonest person is like riding in a car with a steering defect—you never know just what he may do. So realize that when you lie to someone or cheat him, the distrust you create may take years to erase. Where a parent or a friend is involved, the wound caused may heal but may leave a bad memory that is like a long-lasting scar. If you make a practice of dishonesty, the time may well come when you seriously want and need others to believe and trust you but they cannot. Is any temporary advantage that dishonesty brings worth this?
11-13. (a) How does the habit of lying often get started? (b) Why is it cowardly, rather than courageous, to lie?
11 Actually, lying is like wading into quicksand. Often each lie calls for other lies to back it up, and one is soon enmeshed in a vicious cycle. Surely, can’t we see the wisdom of the straightforward Bible counsel: “Do not be lying to one another”?—Colossians 3:9.
12 Those who lie often begin with half-truths and “little lies,” then gradually go on to worse ones. Lying thus often gets started as does gambling. The person gambling begins betting small amounts, but—usually to cover some losses—he gradually gets drawn into making bigger and bigger bets.
13 At first, telling falsehoods with a straight face may seem bold, daring. You may even know of persons who train themselves to look another straight in the eye while lying. Is that not courageous? No, lying is actually cowardly rather than courageous. What takes courage is to tell the truth and face up to whatever consequences that brings. Rather than implying strength, a lie is weak, unable to stand on its own, needing other lies to hold it up, never willing to meet the truth face to face. Why, then, be like a person who spends his life wearing a false face, hiding, ducking and making excuses? Why be like Judas Iscariot, who became a cheat, tried to lead a double life and wound up a failure and a suicide? Why not be man or woman enough to be honest? It is the only way to maintain self-respect and a good conscience.
KEEPING YOUR WORD
14-16. Why is it important to keep your word?
14 Keeping your word is also involved in this matter of honesty. You would probably feel deeply hurt if your parents promised you something and then failed to fulfill their word. But do you feel as strongly about keeping your word to your parents? What are you like in this respect? If you tell someone you will help him to do something or offer to perform some service, do you try always to fulfill your word? If you make an appointment to meet someone at a certain time, do you show up, and on time? How much is your word worth?
15 Youth is the right time to start developing the habit of being a person of your word. Keeping or not keeping your word tells a lot about what you are like inside now; it also has a molding effect on your mind and heart. It builds up an attitude, a way of looking at things that can produce long-lasting personality traits.
16 If you are reliable now, you probably will be in later years. And the reverse is just as true. For example, if you do not live up to your word now, in later years you may make a firm agreement to take on a certain job or assignment—and then soon want to back out. Many people do that, but they are not viewed with respect by others.
17-19. (a) Why do people break their word? (b) What can help you to avoid situations where you might feel inclined to break your word?
17 Why do people break their word? Well, for one thing keeping one’s word puts limitations on a person, it obligates him. When the time arrives for keeping an appointment or some other promise, something else may seem more appealing. Then, too, many times the person may find that making good on his word means much harder work than he thought it would.
18 What will you do in such cases? Will you stay by your word even though it means some hardship or loss to you? One may say, “But I didn’t know what I was getting into!” The real question here is: Whose fault was it? Was there fraud or deception on the other person’s side? If not, then if you endure whatever hardness fulfilling your word requires, you learn a valuable lesson. That is: Think before you talk, before you give your word. Then, when you speak, mean what you say.
19 To say “Yes” to something simply because you think it will please someone—but without first thinking out the consequences—can get you into difficulty. By contrast, if you are careful about making promises, if you think matters through and consider how they will affect your future life, then it will be much easier to keep your word once you have committed yourself. You will have prepared your heart and mind to be true to your word. “Let your word Yes mean Yes,” Jesus said.—Matthew 5:37.
THE MAIN REASON WHY HONESTY PAYS
20-22. (a) What is the main reason why it is important to be honest at all times? (Psalm 15:1-4) (b) What fine example does God set in keeping his word? What can help us to follow His example?
20 The main reason why it pays to be honest and truthful is that Jehovah God counts as his friends only persons who are. Why so? Because he himself is unfailingly true to his word. That is why Joshua could say to the nation of Israel: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:14) The Bible is largely a record of the promises Jehovah has kept. His trueness in the past is what gives us such confidence of future blessings in fulfillment of his promises.
21 Do you want God’s approval? Then remember that he gives it only to those who worship him “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23) And keep in mind that he detests lying in all its forms—deception, boasting, slander, cheating—because it springs from selfishness, greed and a callous unconcern for the interests of others. He knows that all mankind’s troubles and suffering originally stem from lying—on the part of the “father of the lie,” Satan, God’s principal enemy.—John 8:44.
22 Do you sincerely want to hold faithfully to a course of honesty? Then you should realize that only genuine love for your Creator and your neighbor can give you the motivation you need. There must be a heartfelt love of truth for the good it does and an equally intense hatred of lying for the harm it does. God’s approval, too, must mean more to you than that of any other person. Remember, it is only because he himself loves the truth and hates lying that we can have a solid hope for the future, based on his unfailing promises and the proved reliability of his Word. So strive to be like him. Keep in mind that “it is the lip of truth that will be firmly established forever, but the tongue of falsehood will be only as long as a moment.”—Proverbs 12:19.
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Do you really benefit if you steal?