What does the Bible say about honesty?
To be honest is to be truthful or sincere. Honesty is also related to moral correctness or fairness. We talk about an "honest day's work" in which a person works hard and his pay is well-earned. We also talk about an "honest mistake" meaning the person intended no harm yet made an error. All of these definitions of honesty speak to an upright, moral character free of guile and concerned with truthfulness. The Bible has a great deal to say about truth. Most specifically, it tells us that Jesus is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). John 1:14 tells us that Jesus is "full of grace and truth." First John 1:5 tells us that "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." God is the source of all truth—He is completely honest. He never lies, and He desires that we, similarly, practice honesty in our lives.
Jesus said that Satan "was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Dishonesty is a reflection of Satan's character and the system of the world.
Followers of Jesus Christ have had their eyes opened to the reality of God's truth. Knowing the truth, we are to continue to put off falsehood. We should pursue truth in our doctrines and beliefs, not allowing ourselves to be taken captive by Satan's deception (Ephesians 4:11–15; Hebrews 3:13). Truth and honesty also play a vital role in the way we conduct ourselves. Our speech and our conduct are meant to reflect the character of God. He is truthful and loving. When we are honest in all we do, we reflect that nature.
Many New Testament instructions for Christian living talk about the importance of honesty. For example, Ephesians 4:25 says, "Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." Ephesians 4:28 says, "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need." First Peter 2:1–3 says, "So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good."
A life of honesty requires not only being honest with others, but also being honest with ourselves. Our own sinful natures and the world system are full of deceit. If we are not careful, sin can begin to look good to us and we can easily forget that the only source of genuine good is God (James 1:14–17). One way to keep ourselves honest is to continue to read and study the Word of God. The Bible is a primary way that God reveals Himself to us. The more we know Him and His truth, the more we will live honest lives.
Another key part of honesty is Christian community. Men and women committed to following Jesus Christ can encourage one another to keep the faith and to press on in living as Jesus has called us to (Hebrews 3:13; 10:19–25). The world system may not applaud honesty, but our brothers and sisters in Christ can remind us that the way of Christ is the way of true life. Community is also helpful with accountability. As we are often unable to see the true situation of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), we each need people in our lives who are willing to be honest with us about all things—even those that are difficult to hear. We also need to be willing to be honest with others, even when the truth seems uncomfortable. It is important to remember that honest words should always be spoken with gentleness, respect, and love (1 Peter 3:15; Ephesians 4:15).
Writing to a group of dispersed Christians, Peter instructed, "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12). A little later he wrote, "in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." We display honesty both when we live with integrity and when we willingly share the truth about who God is and His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. The truthfulness of our words is often proved by the honesty of our conduct.
In the same letter Peter wrote, "He [Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:22–25). Jesus, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) and "the Shepherd and Overseer of [our] souls" has redeemed us by His blood. As children of God (John 1:12), in whom there is no dishonesty, our lives should be wrapped up in His truth and we should be honest in all we say and do.
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