All of us have to make daily decisions about whether to handle money honestly. Do you tell the cashier at the store when you receive too much change? Have you ever tried to sell something and been tempted not to tell the whole truth because you might lose the sale?
These decisions are more difficult when so many around us act dishonestly. People today do the same thing, formulating their own standards of honesty and then changing them when circumstances change. Judges 17:6 describes a similar time in history, “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
Honesty in the Bible
Hundreds of verses in the Bible communicate the Lord’s desire for us to be completely honest. For instance, Proverbs 20:23 says, “The Lord loathes all cheating and dishonesty” (TLB). And Proverbs 12:22 states, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.” And in Proverbs 6:16-17 we read, “The Lord hates . . . a lying tongue.”
Truthfulness is one of God’s attributes. He is repeatedly identified as the God of truth. “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). And He commands us to reflect His honest and holy character: “Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
In contrast to God’s nature, John 8:44 describes the devil’s character: “He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” The Lord wants us to conform to His honest character rather than to the dishonest nature of the devil.
God wants us to be completely honest for the following reasons.
We cannot practice dishonesty and love God. Two of the Ten Commandments address honesty. “You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:15-16). And Jesus told us, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
We cannot disobey by practicing dishonesty and still love God. When being dishonest, we behave as if the living God doesn’t even exist! We believe that He is unable to provide exactly what we need even though He has promised to do so (Matthew 6:33). We take the situation into our own hands and do it our own dishonest way. We are also acting as if God is incapable of discovering our dishonesty and powerless to discipline us. If we really believe God will discipline us, we will not consider acting dishonestly.
Honest behavior is an issue of faith. An honest decision may look foolish in light of what we can see, but the godly person knows Jesus Christ is alive even though invisible. Every honest decision strengthens our faith and helps us grow into a closer relationship with Christ. When we choose to be dishonest, we are denying our Lord. It is impossible to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind if, at the same time, we are dishonest and act as if He does not exist. Scripture declares that the dishonest actually hate God. “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is crooked in his ways despises Him” (Proverbs 14:2). The Lord’s primary interest in our honesty is so that we can experience a closer relationship with Him.
We cannot practice dishonesty and love our neighbor. The Lord requires honesty because dishonest behavior also violates the second commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Romans 13:9-10 reads, “If you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself you will not want to harm or cheat him, or kill him or steal from him. . . . Love does no wrong to anyone”(TLB).
When we act dishonestly, we are stealing from another person. We may rationalize that it is a business or the government or an insurance company that is suffering loss. Yet, if we look at the bottom line, it is the business owners or fellow taxpayers or policy holders from whom we are stealing. It is just as if we took the money from their wallets. Dishonesty always injures people. The victim is always a person.
Credibility for evangelism. Honesty enables us to demonstrate the reality of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know Him. Our actions speak louder than our words. Philippians 2:15 reads, “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
We can influence people for Jesus Christ by handling our money honestly. Robert Newsom had been trying to sell a car for months when someone finally made an acceptable offer. At the last moment, however, the buyer said, “I have one condition—you don’t report this sale so I won’t have to pay state sales tax.”
Although he was tempted, Robert responded, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that because Jesus Christ is my Lord.” Robert later said, “You should have seen that guy’s reaction. He almost went into shock! Then an interesting thing happened. His attitude completely changed. Not only did he buy the car, but he eagerly joined my wife and me at our dinner table. Rarely have I seen anyone as open to the truth about knowing Jesus Christ in a personal way.”
Because Robert acted honestly, even though it was going to cost him money (“Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach”), he demonstrated to this person (“a crooked and perverse generation”) the reality of a personal faith in Jesus Christ (“appear as lights in the world”).
Confirms God’s Direction. Proverbs 4:24-26 reads, “Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.” What a tremendous principle. As you are completely honest, “all your ways will be established.” Choosing to walk the narrow path of honesty eliminates the many possible avenues of dishonesty.