“We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—HEBREWS 13:18.
1, 2. How does Jehovah feel when he sees us working hard to be honest?
AS A boy walks home from school one day, he finds a wallet full of money on the ground. What will he do? He could keep it. But instead, he returns the wallet to its owner. When the boy’s mother hears about what he did, she is very proud of him.
2 Most parents are happy when their children are honest. Our heavenly Father, Jehovah, is “the God of truth,” and it makes him happy when we are honest. (Psalm 31:5) We want to please him and “conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) Let’s discuss four areas of life in which honesty can be a challenge. Then we will consider some of the benefits that will come when we meet that challenge.
HONESTY WITH OURSELVES
3-5. (a) How could we be dishonest with ourselves? (b) What will help us to be honest with ourselves?
3 To be honest with others, we must first be honest with ourselves. This is not always easy. In the first century, brothers in the congregation of Laodicea fooled themselves into thinking that they were pleasing God when in reality they were not. (Revelation 3:17) We too could deceive ourselves about the kind of person we really are.
4 The disciple James explained: “If any man thinks he is a worshipper of God but does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he is deceiving his own heart, and his worship is futile.” (James 1:26) We would be deceiving ourselves if we thought that as long as we did some good things, God would not care if we were rude or sarcastic or if we told lies. What can help us to avoid deceiving ourselves?
5 When we look in a mirror, we can see what we look like on the outside. When we read the Bible, we can see who we are on the inside. The Bible can help us to know both our strengths and our weaknesses. We learn what changes we need to make in the way we think, act, and speak. (Read James 1:23-25.) But if we tell ourselves that we do not have any flaws, then we cannot make the necessary improvements. So we need to use the Bible to look at ourselves honestly. (Lamentations 3:40; Haggai 1:5) Prayer also helps us to see ourselves as we really are. We can ask Jehovah in prayer to examine us and help us see our flaws so that we can correct them. (Psalm 139:23, 24) We remember that “Jehovah detests a devious person, but His close friendship is with the upright.”—Proverbs 3:32.
HONESTY IN THE FAMILY
6. Why should a husband and a wife be honest with each other?
6 Honesty is absolutely essential in the family. When a husband and a wife are open with each other, they feel secure and can really trust each other. Dishonesty in marriage can take many forms. For example, a married person could become involved in flirting or pornography or could secretly develop a romantic relationship with someone. Notice what the psalmist said: “I do not associate with deceitful men, and I avoid those who hide what they are.” (Psalm 26:4) If you are dishonest with your mate even in your thoughts, it will harm your marriage.
7, 8. How can you use the Bible to teach children the value of honesty?
7 Children also need to learn that honesty is important. Parents can use the Bible to teach them this. It contains bad examples of people who were dishonest: Achan, who became a thief; Gehazi, who lied in order to get money; and Judas, who stole money and later betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins.—Joshua 6:17-19; 7:11-25; 2 Kings 5:14-16, 20-27; Matthew 26:14, 15; John 12:6.
8 The Bible also contains many good examples of people who were honest: Jacob, who urged his sons to return the money they had found; Jephthah and his daughter, who kept a promise to God; and Jesus, who was honest even in difficult situations. (Genesis 43:12; Judges 11:30-40; John 18:3-11) These examples can help children to understand the value of honesty.
9. How will it help children if their parents are honest?
9 Parents can learn from this important Bible principle: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching, ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal?” (Romans 2:21) Children know when their parents say one thing but do another. If we tell our children to be honest but we are not honest ourselves, they will be confused. If children notice that their parents lie, even about small things, they will probably do the same. (Read Luke 16:10.) On the other hand, when children see that their parents are honest, it may help them to be trustworthy parents when they have children of their own.—Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4.
HONESTY IN THE CONGREGATION
10. How can we be honest in our conversations with fellow Christians?
10 We also need to be honest with our Christian brothers and sisters. It is easy for everyday conversation to turn into gossip, even slander. If we repeat something without knowing whether it is true, we might be spreading lies. It is far better to ‘control our lips.’ (Proverbs 10:19) Being honest does not mean that we have to say everything we think, know, or have heard. Even if what we are about to say is true, it may be none of our business, or it may be unnecessary and unkind to repeat it. (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Some people make excuses for being rude by saying: “I’m just being honest.” But as Jehovah’s people, we always want our words to be gracious and kind.—Read Colossians 4:6.
11, 12. (a) How can a person who has sinned make matters worse by being dishonest about it? (b) What are some questions we might ask? (c) How can we be honest with Jehovah’s organization?
11 Jehovah has assigned elders the responsibility of helping the congregation. It is easier for the elders to help us when we are honest with them. Why? If you were sick and you went to a doctor for help, would you hide some of your symptoms from him? If you did that, how could he help you? In a similar way, if we made a serious mistake, we should not lie about it. Instead, we should go to the elders and talk honestly about it. (Psalm 12:2; Acts 5:1-11) Now imagine a different situation: What if you found out that your friend had made a serious mistake? (Leviticus 5:1) Would you say: “If I’m really his friend, I will keep it a secret”? Or would you remember that the elders are there to give him the help he needs so that he can repair and strengthen his relationship with Jehovah?—Hebrews 13:17; James 5:14, 15.
12 We also need to be honest with Jehovah’s organization when we fill out reports, such as when we report our activity in the ministry. And we are honest when we apply to pioneer or to do any other form of service.—Read Proverbs 6:16-19.
13. How can we be honest if we do business with a fellow Christian?
13 Christian brothers and sisters need to keep business matters separate from worship. For example, we do not do business while we are at the Kingdom Hall or in the ministry. And we don’t take advantage of our brothers or sisters in business matters. If you employ Witnesses, pay your workers on time, give them the amount you promised, and provide any benefits required by law. These might include medical insurance or paid time off. (1 Timothy 5:18; James 5:1-4) And if you are employed by a fellow Witness, do not expect special treatment. (Ephesians 6:5-8) Make sure to work the agreed amount of time and to do the work you are paid to do.—2 Thessalonians 3:10.
14. What should Christians do before they go into business together?
14 What if we go into business with a brother or a sister? This might involve an investment or a loan. In situations such as these, there is a very useful Bible principle: Put everything in writing! When the prophet Jeremiah bought some land, he wrote two copies of the agreement, had one copy signed by witnesses, and stored both documents for future reference. (Jeremiah 32:9-12; see also Genesis 23:16-20.) Some feel that writing an agreement down could make it seem as if they do not trust their brother. But in reality, writing down the agreement can prevent many misunderstandings, disappointments, and disagreements. Even in business matters, remember that the peace of the congregation is more important than any business deal.—1 Corinthians 6:1-8; see Endnote 30.
HONESTY IN THE SECULAR WORLD
15. How does Jehovah feel about dishonest business practices?
15 We must be honest with everyone, including those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is important to Jehovah that we be honest. “Dishonest scales are detestable to Jehovah, but an accurate weight brings pleasure to him.” (Proverbs 11:1; 20:10, 23) In Bible times, scales were often used in business transactions. But some merchants cheated their customers by giving them less than they had agreed to or by making them pay more than they should have paid. Today, as in Bible times, dishonesty is very common in business. And just as Jehovah hated dishonesty then, he hates it today.
16, 17. What common forms of dishonesty do we need to avoid?
16 All of us face situations where we could be dishonest—such as applying for a job, filling out government forms, or taking exams in school. Many believe that there is nothing wrong with lying, exaggerating, or giving misleading answers. This does not surprise us. The Bible foretold that in the last days of this system, people would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . without love of goodness.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
17 Sometimes it may seem that dishonest people succeed in today’s world. (Psalm 73:1-8) A Christian may even lose his job, be cheated out of money, or get treated badly at work because of his honesty. But honesty is worth any sacrifice. Why?
THE BLESSINGS OF BEING HONEST
18. Why is a good reputation so valuable?
18 A reputation as an honest, trustworthy, and reliable person is precious and rare in this world. Each of us has the opportunity to build such a reputation. (Micah 7:2) True, some people may make fun of you for being honest and call you foolish. But others will appreciate your honesty and will trust you because of it. All around the world, Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for their honesty. Some employers prefer to hire Witnesses because they know that they will be honest. And when other employees have been fired for dishonesty, Witnesses have often kept their jobs.
19. How will being honest affect your friendship with Jehovah?
19 Being honest in all things will give you a good conscience and peace of mind. We can be like Paul, who wrote: “We trust we have an honest conscience.” (Hebrews 13:18) Most important, your loving Father, Jehovah, will notice and appreciate your efforts to be honest in all things.—Read Psalm 15:1, 2; Proverbs 22:1.