Be Honest in All Things
“We trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—HEBREWS 13:18.
1, 2. (a) What has happened to honesty in our time? (b) What types of people are involved in dishonesty?
OLDER persons can remember a time when, in many places, people did not lock their doors. They did not think of stealing from others or of cheating them. If they borrowed money, they felt honor-bound to repay it. And their word was ‘as good as gold.’ True, there was dishonesty, but it was not all-pervasive. Today, however, stealing, lying, and cheating are commonplace throughout the world. And many dishonest acts originate with so-called respectable people who live and work in nice neighborhoods, dress well, may have a religion, and consider themselves good citizens. Indeed, dishonesty has become notorious among officials of government and business.
2 In the United States over 11 million major crimes involving dishonesty are reported each year. And the failure to report all taxable income amounts to over $250 billion a year. In New York City about a hundred thousand people avoid paying fares in the subway system—every day. An official said that if all these cheaters were arrested, “we’d tie up the court system for months.” In Japan a survey of taxpayers found that 95 percent cheated on tax returns, including 92 percent of the lawyers. In one month over 16,000 people were caught stealing free rides on the railways.
3. How has dishonesty become more prevalent in marriage?
3 Dishonesty has increased in married life too. Some years ago a survey revealed that 30 percent of American wives “engaged in sex outside of marriage.” In a more recent survey of over a hundred thousand married women, 50 percent admitted “having had an affair outside her marriage, at least once.” An observer commented that perhaps “90 percent of the married men” similarly cheat.
Part of “the Last Days”
4. Why is the increase of dishonesty no surprise to us?
4 It is no surprise to Jehovah’s servants that dishonesty has increased. They know that this is part of the sign of these “last days.” God’s Word foretold that in our time people would be ‘lovers of themselves, lovers of money, disloyal, without self-control, without love of goodness, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power, and advancing from bad to worse.’ (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) “Increasingly,” a group of experts acknowledged, people in the world “are setting aside traditional values of right and wrong and bypassing conscience.”
5. What happened when a condition similar to that of our day existed in the ancient ten-tribe kingdom of Israel?
5 The condition in the world today is worse than it was in the time just before Jehovah executed his judgment against the ancient ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Of that time Hosea 4:1-3 relates: “Jehovah has a legal case with the inhabitants of the land, for there is no truth nor loving-kindness nor knowledge of God in the land. There are the pronouncing of curses and practicing of deception and murdering and stealing and committing of adultery that have broken forth, and acts of bloodshed have touched other acts of bloodshed. That is why the land will mourn and every inhabitant in it will have to fade away.” Jehovah’s adverse judgment was executed in 740 B.C.E. when he allowed Assyria to overrun Israel and its capital Samaria and to carry its inhabitants into exile.
6. Why will God execute judgment upon this present system, and how certain is that judgment?
6 Similarly, Jehovah has a “legal case” with this dishonest world. The Scriptures make clear that it has been adversely judged by Jehovah and will “fade away” in destruction. “The heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7) So certain is the fulfillment of this that God’s Word speaks about it as though it had already happened: “Look! Jehovah came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they did in an ungodly way.”—Jude 14, 15.
7. Until Jehovah brings this corrupt world to an end, what challenges face his servants?
7 However, until God brings this dishonest world to its end, his servants have to live in it. Christians are “in the world,” though, as Jesus said, “they are no part of the world.” (John 17:11-14) Thus, daily they are called on to make moral judgments involving honesty. This includes situations on the job, at school, in the family, or with friends. In all challenges to their Bible-trained conscience, Jehovah’s servants want to feel as did the apostle Paul when he declared: “We trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Hebrews 13:18.
Not Just ‘the Best Policy’
8. Why is honesty the policy for Jehovah’s servants?
8 It has been said that ‘honesty is the best policy,’ meaning that honesty brings practical results. But for Christians, the matter goes beyond that. For them, honesty is the only policy. As servants of Jehovah, they are obligated not to imitate this condemned world’s dishonesty—not for any reason. Instead, they must carry on all their activities in harmony with God’s laws. And his laws have not changed in this regard.
9. How did Jehovah’s Law to ancient Israel stress honesty?
9 For instance, Jehovah said to ancient Israel: “You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely as a witness against your fellowman. You must not desire . . . anything that belongs to your fellowman.” (Exodus 20:14-17) Similarly, Leviticus 19:11, 12 states: “You people must not steal, and you must not deceive, and you must not deal falsely anyone with his associate. And you must not swear in my name to a lie, so that you do profane the name of your God. I am Jehovah.”
10. How does Christianity stress honesty?
10 Such laws have been restated for Christians. Thus, God’s Word says: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom”; nor will anyone who is “carrying on a lie.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Revelation 22:15) All who want to live in God’s new system must reflect his qualities, one of which is that “God . . . cannot lie.” (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) Dishonesty originates with Satan, “the father of the lie.”—John 8:44.
11, 12. (a) Why should we learn honesty now? (b) Why do we feel secure in God’s visible organization?
11 Since “righteousness is to dwell” in God’s promised “new earth,” “righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.” (2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 26:9) That is why the rapidly growing number of prospective citizens of the Paradise earth are now being ‘instructed about Jehovah’s ways,’ including that of honesty. (Isaiah 2:3, 4) Thus, God’s Word counsels us: “Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices.” (Colossians 3:9) It also says: “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work, that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.”—Ephesians 4:28.
12 So Jehovah’s servants must be honest in all things. Since that is the way everyone will have to be in the new system, it is the way God’s people must be now. And what a pleasure it is to associate with an international society of millions of people who are cultivating honesty! How secure we feel in this spiritual paradise that is the product of God’s powerful holy spirit, “which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.” (Acts 5:32) Contrast that with the unwholesome spirit that permeates this world under “the god of this system of things,” Satan the Devil.—2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 5:19-24.
Honesty Noticed by Others
13, 14. How have others commented on the honesty of Jehovah’s people?
13 The honesty of God’s people is often noticed by others. For example, the Italian newspaper Il Piccolo published a letter from one of its readers that stated: “I wish to thank the lady who identified herself as a Jehovah’s Witness and who gave proof of exemplary honesty by sending me back, through this newspaper, a considerable sum of money I had lost.” In the United States, The Indianapolis Star wrote about a Witness couple who found $4,000 and returned it to the owner. The paper stated that the couple “had no doubts about what they had to do.” Why not? They said: “We couldn’t keep it. We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
14 When a Witness in Missouri found $9,500 and turned it in to the police, a newspaper quoted an officer as stating: “It is extremely rare for someone to find that kind of money and turn it in. We’ve never had anyone that I can recall do that before. It really was amazing.” The article mentioned that the Witness “never entertained the thought of keeping the money.” The officer in charge said that the Witness “had restored his faith that there were still some honest people among mankind.” The Witness responded: “We as a people pride ourselves in being honest in all respects.”
15, 16. What experiences show that honesty even in small things is noticed by others?
15 It is not just in big things that we must be honest. Honesty is necessary in small things too. (Luke 16:10) For example, when a Witness family stayed at a Florida hotel, their son inadvertently took a pillowcase, mistaking it for his undershirt. The family mailed it back to the hotel, and the hotel manager wrote: “We would like to thank you very much for your honesty. While sending back our pillowcase was probably your usual everyday deed in being yourself, to us it was something to be commended.” Similarly, when a Witness couple accidentally took a writing pen from a Georgia hotel and then returned it, the manager wrote: “Let me thank you for taking the time to return the writing pen that you accidentally packed with your belongings. It is refreshing to receive notes such as the one you sent from such honest and caring people!”
16 A Witness boy in the fifth grade was playing baseball at school. He was involved in a play that was close, but he knew he was “out.” His teammates tried to say he was “safe.” But then a member of the opposing team said that there was one sure way to determine the truth. He said: “Ask him if he is out or not. He’s a Witness, and Witnesses don’t lie.” The boy’s good conduct in everyday matters had been noticed by the others. Truly, by living according to God’s standards, even “out of the mouth of babes” praise can come to Jehovah.—Matthew 21:16.
17, 18. What good effect can Jehovah’s principles regarding honesty have on people of good heart?
17 In Nigeria, the husband of a Witness was very opposed to her going to a circuit assembly. So he followed her there and tried to cause a disturbance. After the session, the man said: “Now I am going to test you Witnesses.” When no one was looking, he took money from his pocket, marked it, crumpled it up, and dropped it on the ground. Later, he mentioned that he had lost his money. However, he was told not to worry because it would be recovered. He went back to where he had dropped the money, but it was gone. “Aha,” he said, “I have caught you people cheating!” Then he was told that the money would not be there but would have been taken to the Lost and Found Department. The marked money was indeed at that department and was returned to him. This experience encouraged him to look into what his wife believed, and today he is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
18 In a letter written to the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York, a woman who is not a Witness said that she wanted to share an incident that happened to her daughter in school. Her daughter had an expensive horse’s bridle stolen from her one day. Two years later, the daughter received a letter that said: “Dear Lili, Here is your bridle that was stolen from you a couple of years ago. It was me who took it, but now I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and my new conscience will not let me keep it any longer. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.” Yes, those who wish to serve Jehovah must cultivate “an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Hebrews 13:18.
Keeping the Organization Clean
19. (a) If a Christian does commit a dishonest act, what must he do? (b) If a few among us persist in dishonest acts, what will happen to them, and why?
19 If a servant of God inadvertently commits a dishonest act, then he must be quick to make amends as soon as he realizes it or it is called to his attention. And if a few individuals among us lose their appreciation for Bible principles and persist in dishonest practices, they will not be allowed to contaminate God’s people. They will be disfellowshipped. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) In this we can count on heavenly assistance, for Jesus foretold: “The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness . . . At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”—Matthew 13:41-43.
20, 21. (a) Why can we confidently invite meek ones to worship Jehovah with us? (b) What aspect of honesty will be discussed in the next article?
20 Thus, Jehovah’s organization is kept clean. As a result, it ‘shines brightly’ as a beacon to honesthearted people. That is why we confidently say to the meek ones of the earth: “Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah [the elevated place or position of true worship] . . . and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”—Micah 4:2.
21 Since Jehovah’s servants must practice honesty in all things, this would, of course, include their business dealings with other Witnesses. Here, too, challenges to honesty can arise. What are some of them? How can we deal with them? The following article will discuss this aspect of honesty.
Questions for Review
□ What has happened to honesty in our time? Why?
□ How does God’s Word speak of the need for honesty?
□ Why must we cultivate honesty even before the new system?
□ What experiences show the value of honesty?
□ What assurance is there that honesty will be maintained among us?
[Picture on page 13]
Right now, the prospective citizens of God’s new system are being instructed in Jehovah’s way of honesty