Will You Make the Effort to Be Honest?
“THE surest way to remain poor to be an honest man.” Do you agree with that sentiment of Napoleon expressed over a century and a half ago? Many today do.
An ever-increasing crowd considers dishonesty as an accepted way of life, a ‘necessary evil’ for survival in the present system of things. Honesty, on the other hand, is viewed by many as a sign of weakness, yes, an invitation to others to take advantage of one.
How do you feel about the matter of honesty? Do you agree with the viewpoints noted above or do you feel that honesty is something desirable, something worth putting effort into? The Bible leaves no room for doubt. How is that?
Readers of the Bible are encouraged to “become imitators of God,” and “to follow [Christ’s] steps closely.” (Eph. 5:1; 1 Pet. 2:21) Jehovah himself is perfectly honest, “a God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice.” And of Jesus Christ, we read: “He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth.” (Deut. 32:4; 1 Pet. 2:22) All who would win God’s approval must likewise manifest the godly quality of honesty.
Are you willing to put forth the effort that this requires? If so, daily you will be faced with challenging situations that test your honesty. What are some of these?
Certain privileges that employers extend to their employees can present a challenge to honesty. Some offer special discounts to their staff. Perhaps this is true where you work. If so, does this mean that you can buy items for anyone you choose? Or does the special discount apply only for yourself and your immediate family? And what about personal use of the company car or other equipment? If you are not sure what your employer’s policy is on such matters, will you make the effort to be honest and ask? If you do, make sure the one you ask has authority to give you a truthful answer.
Consider, also, Jesus’ command: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar.” (Matt. 22:21) This includes paying “to him who calls for the tax, the tax.” (Rom. 13:7) Some establishments deduct required taxes before paying their employees. But with other people honesty necessitates personal effort. Why so?
Many are self-employed. Some work in service positions, as waiters and waitresses, with a large portion of their income coming in the form of tips. Others perform work in addition to their regular employment for which they receive remuneration. In many cases no taxes are previously deducted from their income.
Some, looking for an opportunity to gain relief from the burden of high taxation, report a portion of their income for taxing, but not all. Because the likelihood of getting caught is small they adopt the viewpoint that ‘what the government does not know won’t hurt it.’
Honesty requires effort also in connection with what ‘Caesar’ or the secular government provides for the people. Some countries make available government-sponsored social services, which include financial aid to those with low income or who are unemployed. In the United States this is known as public or social welfare.
This provision has given rise to much dishonesty. Officials have expressed concern at the ease with which welfare money may be obtained with minimal inquiry being made as to the recipient’s eligibility. A United States senator in a speech before the Senate on March 14, 1972, spoke of “literally thousands of people all around the country who should not, under any reasonable interpretation, be eligible for benefits, or whose benefits should be substantially less than they are receiving.” A United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare survey revealed that, of 500,000 recipients, 4.9 percent were ineligible for any payment, and over 7.9 percent received overpayments.
To be honest when faced with the temptation to obtain what appears to be ‘easy money’ can require determined effort in a variety of circumstances. For instance, a person may qualify to receive welfare payments for a while but then undergo a change of status, for example, due to marriage, becoming employed or receiving a salary increase. The law may specify that he should now receive benefits at a lower rate or none at all. Will he make the effort to be honest and notify the administration of his changed status?
Some refrain from doing so, reasoning that as long as the government does not look into the matter it is all right. But even if a person does inform them, he may continue to receive money at the same rate as before due to inefficiency or indifference on the part of the office workers.
What would you do if you found yourself in that situation? Would you accept the money, reasoning that someone else’s mistake or negligence entitles you to it? Or would you refuse to accept that to which you are not entitled by law? The Bible can help you to make the right decision. How so?
For one thing the Bible reveals that “the eyes of Jehovah are in every place, keeping watch upon the bad ones and the good ones.” He sees everything we do, and this in itself should serve as a strong incentive to conduct ourselves honestly at all times.—Prov. 15:3; compare Psalm 139:1-12.
Then, too, the word of God forthrightly condemns deception and thievery. At Ephesians 4:25, we read: “Wherefore, now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.” Falsehood, of course, includes direct lying. But what about voluntarily withholding information from Caesar that he has a right to know? Is that any less a form of falsehood?
The Bible’s command is clear: “Let the stealer steal no more.” A Christian has no desire to come into possession of something to which he has no right, even if that may be made easy through someone else’s error or oversight. Instead, a follower of Christ is to “do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work.”—Eph. 4:28.
Honesty commends itself in many positive ways too. The most important of these is outlined for us at Proverbs 3:32: “For the devious person is a detestable thing to Jehovah, but His intimacy is with the upright [or, honest] ones.”
Those who cultivate such a fine relationship with the Creator know that they need not resort to trickery and deception to obtain the necessities of life. If they “keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness,” which righteousness includes honesty, they are assured that “all these other things will be added to [them].”—Matt. 6:33.
Also, Bible study convinces one that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” The result? One is freed from the anxieties of materialism and enjoys a well-being that cannot be valued in dollars and cents.—Acts 20:35.
Yes, honesty requires effort. But a fine relationship with Jehovah God and its attendant blessings make it well worth the effort. The question remains though: Will you make the effort to be honest?