John wrote, "…we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John 5:19). We can look at society around us and know this is true, especially concerning honesty. Many do not have a sense of integrity, let alone to take the time to train and ground their children in such. In the days of old, many agreements were sealed on a man's handshake and his good name. Those days are long since past.
In Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians he wrote, "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (2 Corinthians 8:21). What does the Bible teach on the subject of honesty? In this discussion, we shall break it down into three sections: (1) honesty in our speech, (2) honesty in our dealings with others, and (3) honesty with ourselves.
When we speak of honesty in our speeches, we are of course speaking of lying. Lying is defined as, "to speak falsely." (The New American Webster Dictionary, New York, NY, Penguin Books USA Inc., 1956 p.309.) This is an area that has been neglected in the training in the home. We try to justify ourselves by making lies in degrees. The Bible is quite clear on the teaching of this subject.
In the book of Revelation, we find a very well known passage concerning lying. In a list of those who shall have their part in an eternal punishment, we find liars. John clearly states, "…and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone…" (Revelation 21:8). Neither John nor any other New Testament writer ever speaks of lies in degrees. John said, "all liars," which includes anyone who tells any form of a lie.
In Jesus' discourse with the Jews, he told them that they were of their father the devil who, "…abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). We put ourselves in association with the devil when we practice lying. No one should imitate the devil.
Many will try to use the account of Rahab (Joshua 6 and James 2:25) to justify lying. Many use this passage attempting to show that in certain situations we can lie with God's approval. This simply is not so. James did not tell us that Rahab's lie justified her, but rather by her faith she helped the children of Israel. We also must keep in mind that Rahab lived in a different time and under a different law than do we, which also clearly set forth that lying is a sin and has consequences.
We can see from an example in the early church the consequences of lying. In Acts 5:1-11, we read of the account of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, who were struck dead for lying to the Holy Ghost. God does not approve of lying in any situation or circumstance. In the Proverbs, lying is listed as an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:16-19).
God has set forth his law for us (Colossians 3:9), and we should only abide by that which is given. We also should consider the example we are setting for our young people. They are watching.
Honesty in our dealings with others includes, of course, speaking the truth. Our business dealings, as well as personal, should always be maintained with the utmost honesty. This is not just in a physical sense, but also spiritual. Our souls as well as theirs are in jeopardy when we deal dishonestly with them religiously.
Jesus taught concerning how we should treat or deal with others. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). In Leviticus, God gave the Israelites this commandment (Leviticus 19:18). Sometimes we forget this basic principle by the way some treat others.
Again, this is an area that we tend to try to make into degrees. We tell ourselves that we are okay because we have not done anything to cause anyone any serious harm. If a cashier returns to us too much change, regardless of the amount, what should we do? Our consciences should cause us to be honest and return it.
In the area of religion, we should be careful not to mislead people by our actions or teachings. This will cause us to do two things: (1) study to not teach error and (2) clean up our own lives so not to be a stumbling block for others.
When we speak of being honest with ourselves, we are speaking of how we convince ourselves of falsehoods (e.g., concerning what the Scriptures teach on any given subject). It is one thing for us to be deceived by others, but when we deceive ourselves, we refuse to use our God-given ability to think and reason for ourselves.
We should maintain at all times an open mind as to what the Scriptures teach and not be swayed with preconceived notions. John dealt with this in the first epistle when he wrote, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
As an example, we can look at the area of baptism. Many have tried to make the Bible fit a preconceived idea and have convinced themselves that baptism is not necessary to salvation. Many, even after being presented with the truth, refuse to give up their preconceived ideas and are thus dishonest with themselves (James 1:22). This is not the only area which has caused serious divisions in the Lord's church. In failing to recognize and accept the truth of God's Word, we are dishonest with ourselves.
Honesty is a subject that needs to be considered very seriously. It is an area which could cause us to lose our souls, as well as lead others astray. We should watch our speech so that we do not tell falsehoods. We should also consider our dealings with others. We are representing the Lord's church in our daily lives and others are watching our actions. If they see that our dealings are dishonest, we lose our influence and opportunity of teaching them. Finally, we should study the Word of God daily so that we may not deceive ourselves.