By: Bro. James Orhosere (Deacon)
WHAT IS HONESTY? Honesty has been defined as a facet of moral character that connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as truthfulness, integrity, straight forwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft etc. Honesty also involves being trustworthy, loyal, fair and sincere.
Honesty is the norm in the bible. From the bible’s background, honesty and telling the truth at all times are highly valued by God and are considered an integral part of integrity and faithfulness to Him. The Mosaic Law commands that God’s people do not lie or deceive each other (Lev. 19:11) or give false testimony about another (Exo. 20:16). The psalmist describes in detail who an honest person is (Ps. 15:2-5).
The New Testament echoes this when it connects honesty and truthfulness with the Christians new life in Christ (Col. 3:9). One of the first manifestations of the believer putting of the old self and putting on the new self in Christ is a commitment to honesty (Eph. 4:24-25).
Like a coin with two sides, honesty has its own other side which is dishonesty. Dishonesty according to Webster’s seventh New Collegiate Dictionary implies “a willful perversion of truth in order to deceive, cheat or defraud”. It is the opposite of every virtue that honesty stands for. It is often assumed that dishonesty is solely manifested in the world and therefore not found amongst God’s people. But sadly, this is not the case. There are examples of ‘People of God’ who manifested dishonesty in their days.
In the old testament there was the case of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha who manifested trait of dishonesty (2 Kings 5:20-27), while in the new testament, the opportunism displayed by Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-10) shows that dishonesty is still very much prevalent in the Christian fold.
In this lesson, we focus on four main areas of where we at times find it a special challenge to be honest as Christians.
- Honesty with Ourselves
Our first challenge is to learn to be honest with ourselves. For instance, Jesus told the Christians in Laodicea that they had fooled themselves into thinking that they were rich when in fact they were poor and blind and naked spiritually – a truly pitiable situation. Their self-deception only made their situation more dangerous. You may recall that James, the apostle warned that if we were to reason that we could misuse our tongue and still worship God acceptably, we would succeed only in deceiving our own hearts. (James 1:26).
What can keep us from such a bad course? In the passage, James likens the truth of God to a mirror. He advises us to peer into God’s perfect law and make adjustments accordingly (James 1:23-25). The bible can help us to be honest with ourselves and to see what we need to do to improve (Lamentations 3:40; Haggai 1:5). We may also pray to Jehovah and ask Him to examine us to see and address any serious flaws we cannot see on our own (Ps. 139:23-24). Dishonesty is a serious weakness and we need to view it as our heavenly father does (Prov. 3:32).
- Honesty in the family
Honesty should be the hallmark of the family. Husband and wife must be open and sincere with each other. If you are married, never engage in conduct that might tempt you to hide what you are from your spouse.
In teaching the children the value of honesty, parents should be wise to make use of bible examples. On the negatives side, there are such accounts as that of Achan who stole and attempted to cover his theft (Jos. 7: 1, 10, 11-25).
Gehazi, who acted dishonestly for the sake of financial gain (2 Kings 5:20-27) and Judas who sold Jesus for pieces of Silver (Matt. 26:14-15, John 12:6).
On the positive side, there are such accounts as that. Jacob who urged his sons to return the money they found in their bags (Gen. 42:25-28, 35, 43:11-12)
This partial list may give parents a taste of riches found in God’s word that can help teach their children to love and value honesty. However, before these lessons could have impact on the children, the parents must be seen to have imbibed them in their lives before the children. Children are quick to detect hypocrisy and can seriously be damaged by it. When children learn honesty from their parents’ example they may well grow up to glorify God in this dishonest world (Rom. 12:1-2)
- Honesty in the local congregation
Associating with fellow Christians afford us many opportunities to develop honesty. We need to be careful with the way the gift of speech is used particularly among our spiritual brothers and sisters. Casual talks can easily turn into harmful gossip, even slander. If we repeat a story of uncertain origin, we may be helping to spread a lie; so it is much better to control our lips.
It is particularly important that we be honest with those taking the lead in the congregation. Some who become involved in serious wrongdoing compound the problem by trying to cover up their sins and lying to the congregation’s elders when asked about it. In effect, such a course turns a person’s whole life into a life of sin. Others tell the elders part of the truth while concerning essential facts (Acts 5:1-11). Such dishonesty stems from believing in the lies that Satan promotes.
Our honesty with fellow Christians also extends to matters of business. At times, Christian brothers and sisters may engage in business dealings together. The business relationship may be that of an employer and an employee. If we employ a brother or a sister, we may be careful to treat him/her honestly, paying him/her the benefits agreed upon (1 Tim. 5:18). Conversely, if we are employed by a brother or a sister, we should give the full amount of work for the wages (2 Thess. 3:10). We should not expect preferential treatment because of spiritual relationship as if our employer owes us time off, benefits and other advantages not accorded others.
What if our business involves some kind of joint venture, perhaps an investment or a loan. The bible provides an important and useful principle put down in writing, for example, when Jeremiah bought a plot of land, he had a document made out in duplicate, duly witnessed and safely kept for future reference (Jer. 32:9-12). See also Genesis 23:16-20. When doing business with fellow Christians putting details into a carefully prepared, signed and witnessed documents does not imply distrust. Rather, it helps to prevent misunderstandings, disappointment and even divisive disagreements from arising. Any Christians doing business together should keep in mind that no business venture is ever worth endangering the unity and unity of the congregation (1 Cor. 6:1-8)
- Honesty in the secular world
A Christian honesty is not limited to the congregation. The writer of Hebrews said “Pray for us, for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably” (Heb. 13:18). When it comes to business matter with non-Christians our creator is also very interested in honesty. In the book of proverbs alone, there are several references to use of scales and weights in business transactions in order determine the cost of goods purchased. Dishonest merchants would use two sets of weights in business and inaccurate scale to deceive and cheat their customers. God hates such practices. To remain in His love, we must avoid all dishonest business practice either with a Christian or an unbeliever.
True Christians must resolve not to engage in sharp practices in their businesses. What makes honesty a challenge at times is that those who engage in such dishonest ways seem to succeed and even sail ahead in today’s world (Ps 73:12). Main while, Christians may suffer financially because they wish to remain honest in all things. It is worth it because the blessings arising from honesty far outweigh the losses at the end of the day.
Be honest with yourself, others and God. Being honest means choosing not to steal, cheat or deceive in any way. When you are honest you build strength of character that will allow you to be of great service to God and others. You will be blessed with peace of mind and self-respect. You will be trusted by the Lord and will be worthy to approach him for your needs.
Dishonesty on the other hand, harms you and harm others as well. If you lie, steal, cheat you damage your spirit and relationship with God and others. Being honest will enhance future opportunities and your ability to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Be honest everywhere, choose not to cheat in anyway. Be honest in your job, giving a full amount of work for your pay.
Do not rationalize that being dishonest is acceptable, even though others may think “It does not matter”.
Closely associated with honesty is integrity. Integrity means thinking and doing what is right at all times no matter what the consequences are. When you have integrity, you are willing to live by your Christian standards and beliefs even when no one is watching. Choose to live so that your godly thought and behaviour are always in harmony with the gospel.