Does Honesty Pay?
HONEST-HEARTED people are distressed by the dishonesty they see in the world. Some are even distressed by the dishonesty they find in themselves. One woman wrote: “I have . . . been somewhat disappointed to notice what may be a deteriorating quality of my own truthfulness.” Another said: “Too often lately it seems I take the path of least resistance.”
But do we have to be dishonest just because so many others are? No. There are still people around who refuse to be dishonest, and some formerly dishonest individuals have changed. Where, though, can we find a good reason to stay honest in this dishonest world? In the Bible.
The Bible helps us to be honest because it was inspired by the most trustworthy Person of all, Jehovah God. It encourages us: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart.” (Proverbs 3:5) Experience has shown that things always work out for the good of a person who trusts God to the extent of following His counsel, as in this matter of honesty.
How to Be Honest
Read some of the things God says about honesty. Then imagine what the world would be like if everyone followed them.
“Now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.”—Ephesians 4:25.
If everyone spoke only the truth, what would life be like? Why, there would be no dishonest politicians, no swindlers, not even any malicious gossipers!
“Let the stealer steal no more.”—Ephesians 4:28.
Stealing includes such acts as filling out false tax returns, refusing to pay legitimate bills, taking materials from work without authorization, and fraudulently claiming welfare benefits, as well as things like shoplifting and mugging. According to one estimate, the United States national budget would almost balance if everyone stopped stealing from the government.
“A cheating pair of scales is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Proverbs 11:1.
How would you feel if you were sure to get a fair deal every time you went shopping? Just imagine a world with no sharp business practices, where you could buy a secondhand car or a new house with equal confidence!
“Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities.”—Romans 13:1.
Speeding, ignoring traffic signals, submitting fraudulent tax returns and dropping litter are just four of the many ways that people fail to be subject to their governments. How different things would be if everyone rendered proper subjection to the “superior authorities”!
“If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.”—2 Thessalonians 3:10.
Laziness is a major cause of dishonesty and crime. The Christian should be willing to work, not relying on others to support him.
“Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement.”—Hebrews 13:4.
In the survey mentioned earlier, nearly half of all the married people who were asked admitted to cheating on their marriage mates. Surely, you can see what a difference the observance of this command would make as regards human relationships.
Is It Practical?
These standards are clearly excellent. But are they practical today? The answer is yes. God would not ask us to do something impractical or harmful to ourselves. Consider just a few of the advantages of being honest.
First, honesty leaves us with a clear conscience. This is not a negligible thing. Unless we are hardened by habitual wrongdoing, we know when we have done wrong and it bothers us. Our conscience does not trouble us when we are honest.
Then, if we are honest we will not be punished for dishonesty. An honest person does not get caught smuggling goods through customs, cheating on taxes or mugging his neighbors.
Again, our being honest makes life more pleasant for those around us. It even helps them to be honest. After surveying employees in big department stores, the magazine Psychology Today said: “If employees think top management is behaving honestly, they will probably think they are expected to behave honestly . . . But if the employees perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that top management is dishonest, they will be more inclined to justify and excuse their own dishonesty.” Most of us are not as influential as top management. But we all have some influence on those around us. And if we act honestly, that influence is good.
Furthermore, honesty leads to our being respected. A Christian employee at an airline office in Liberia found this to be true. She accepted a telephone call for her boss, and when he told her to say that he was out, she explained that she could not tell a lie. He angrily had her moved to another department. Soon her new boss asked her to cover up a shortage in the petty cash. She refused, and he, too, became angry. However, a few days later, someone was needed to carry thousands of dollars for deposit. Who was chosen? Why, this honest employee! Actually, her bosses respected her for her honesty. In fact, in difficult times honest Christians have found employment when others could not.
It is good to be respected, to have a clear conscience and to make life more pleasant for people around us. But there is a better reason for being honest.
The Best Reason for Honesty
The Bible tells us that God cannot lie. (Titus 1:2) Yes, Jehovah God is honest, and he expects us to be honest too. Listed among the things that God hates are “a false tongue” and “a false witness that launches forth lies.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) God hates it when people tell lies to reduce their taxes, to steal from their employers or to take improper advantage of others in any way.
Perhaps you hate these things too. If so, you will be glad to know that God can and will do something about dishonesty. In fact, he will soon take drastic action. He promises: “Evildoers themselves [including the dishonest] will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more.”—Psalm 37:9, 10.
Jehovah will not allow this earth to be dominated by dishonesty forever. He will remove those who insist on being dishonest, along with all other “evildoers.” However, those who treasure honesty and uprightness and who strive to do God’s will have a bright future. The psalmist asked: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?” The answer? “He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart. He has not slandered with his tongue. To his companion he has done nothing bad.”—Psalm 15:1-3.
Today, it is a real challenge to be honest. But God is looking for those who will stay honest even in the face of temptation and pressure. They will fit well into the righteous “new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise.” (2 Peter 3:13) Today, many serve Jehovah God and try hard to keep his standards. Of course, these people are not perfect. But they believe God’s promise of a righteous “new earth.” And by the way they live now they show their sincere desire to be part of that “new earth,” or new society of people on the earth.
If you value honesty yourself, why not get to know these people? The publishers of this magazine will be happy to put you in contact with them.
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Bible knowledge promotes honesty, and this pleases God
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Honesty is practical. But in what ways?
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What is the best reason for honesty?