Honesty—Is It Really the Best Policy?
HAVE you ever been tempted to lie? Donald told his mother that he had cleaned his room when, in reality, he had thrown everything under the bed. Richard made an equally inept attempt at pulling the wool over his parents’ eyes. He told them that he got a failing grade, not because he did not study, but because he ‘did not get along with his teacher.’
Parents and other adults usually see through such transparent ploys. Yet that does not stop many youths from at least trying to lie, bend the truth, or downright cheat when it seems advantageous. For one thing, parents do not always react coolly to crises. And when you have come in two hours later than you were supposed to, it may seem tempting to say there was a major accident on the freeway, rather than to tell your parents the embarrassing truth—that you simply lost track of the time.
School may present another challenge to honesty. Students often feel overloaded with homework. Cutthroat competition often exists. Why, in the United States, surveys show that more than half of all students cheat or have cheated. But while a lie may seem attractive, and cheating the easy way out, does it really pay to be dishonest?
Lying—Why It Doesn’t Pay
Lying to escape punishment might seem advantageous at the time. But the Bible warns: “He that launches forth lies will not escape.” (Proverbs 19:5) The likelihood is great that the lie will be exposed and punishment meted out anyway. Then your parents will be angry not only because of your original transgression but also because of your lying to them!
What about cheating in school? Says a director of campus judicial programs: “Any student committing an act of academic dishonesty will run a serious risk of harming future educational and employment opportunities.”
True, many seem to be getting away with it. Cheating may very well get you that passing grade, but what are the long-range effects? You no doubt agree it would be foolish to cheat your way through a class on swimming. After all, who wants to be stuck on land when everybody else is having fun in the water! And if you got pushed into a pool, your cheating habits could cause you to drown!
But what about cheating at math or reading? True, the results may not be quite as dramatic—at first. If you have not developed basic academic skills, however, you may find yourself “sinking” in the job market! And a diploma obtained by cheating won’t be much of a life preserver. The Bible says: “The getting of treasures by a false tongue is an exhalation driven away.” (Proverbs 21:6) Any advantages a lie may bring are as short-lived as vapor. How much better it would be for you to buckle down and study, rather than to lie and cheat your way through school! “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage,” says Proverbs 21:5.
Lying and Your Conscience
A young girl named Michelle lyingly accused her brother of breaking a cherished knickknack, though she later felt compelled to confess her lie to her parents. “I felt really bad most of the time,” explains Michelle. “My parents had put trust in me, and I let them down.” This well illustrates how God has placed within mankind the faculty of conscience. (Romans 2:14, 15) Michelle’s conscience tormented her with guilt feelings.
Of course, a person could choose to ignore his conscience. But the more he practices lying, the more he becomes insensitive to the wrong—‘marked in his conscience as with a branding iron.’ (1 Timothy 4:2) Do you really want to have a deadened conscience?
God’s View of Lying
“A false tongue” was and is one of the things that “Jehovah does hate.” (Proverbs 6:16, 17) After all, it is Satan the Devil himself who is “the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) And the Bible makes no distinction between lies and so-called white lies. “No lie originates with the truth.”—1 John 2:21.
Honesty must thus be the policy for anyone who wants to be God’s friend. The 15th Psalm asks: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?” (Ps 15 Verse 1) Let us consider the answer given in the next four verses:
“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 someone who lies to his parents or pretends to be something he is not? Hardly! So 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.
“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) Have you ever allowed yourself to go along with a group of youths who were making unkind, cutting comments about someone else? Develop the strength of willpower to refuse to participate in such talk!
“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) Reject as friends any youths who lie, cheat, or brag about immoral exploits; they will expect you to do the same things. As a youth named Bobby observed: “A friend you lie along with will get you in trouble. He is not a friend you can trust.” Find friends who respect standards of honesty.—Compare Psalm 26:4.
Did you notice that Jehovah appreciates, or “honors,” those who keep their word? Perhaps you promised to help out around the house this Saturday, but now you have been invited to a ball game for that afternoon. Will you treat your word lightly and go with your friends, leaving your parents to do the chores, or will you keep your 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 they have not studied for. People who take bribes value money more than justice.
True, some point to political and business leaders who bend rules of honesty to get their way. But how solid is the success of such persons? Answers Psalm 37:2: “Like grass they will speedily wither, and like green new grass they will fade away.” If not caught and disgraced by others, ultimately they face the judgment of Jehovah God. God’s friends, however, “will never be made to totter.” Their eternal future is assured.
Developing “an Honest Conscience”
Is there not strong reason, then, to avoid any kind of lying? The apostle Paul said of himself and his companions: “We trust we have an honest conscience.” (Hebrews 13:18) Is your conscience likewise sensitive to untruth? If not, train it by studying the Bible and Bible-based literature such as The Watchtower and Awake!
Young Bobby has done so, with good results. He has learned not to cover over problems with a web of lies. His conscience prods him to approach his parents and honestly discuss matters. At times this has resulted in his receiving discipline. Nevertheless, he admits that he ‘feels better inside’ for having been honest.
Speaking the truth is not always easy. But the one who makes a decision to tell the truth will maintain a good conscience, a good relationship with his real friends, and best of all, the privilege of being a “guest” in the tent of God! Honesty, then, is not only the best policy, it is the right policy for all Christians.
Questions for Discussion
◻ What are some situations in which it might seem tempting to lie?
◻ Why doesn’t it pay to lie or cheat? Can you illustrate this from personal observation or experience?
◻ How does a liar damage his conscience?
◻ Read Psalm 15. How do the verses apply to the issue of honesty?
◻ How can a youth develop an honest conscience?
[Blurb on page 213]
‘Any student committing an act of academic dishonesty will run a serious risk of harming future opportunities’
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The Bible makes no distinction between lies and so-called white lies
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Parents will usually see through lame attempts to explain away disobedience