Honesty Refs
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Telling lies is standard behaviour in our society. It is quite acceptable to be dishonest if it is considered necessary. But what does God tell us about honesty? What about “white lies” and “half-truths”? In this chapter, we consider the Bible’s teaching on honesty.

Genesis 12:10-20

Abram faced a severe famine and felt that he needed to move to Egypt to survive. His wife Sarai was so beautiful (even though she was over 60 years old) that Abram feared for his personal safety. So he said she was his sister and asked her to say the same. In fact, Sarai was his half-sister-they had the same father but different mothers. Genesis 20:12

1. Did Abram sin by claiming Sarai was his sister?
2. Is deception always sin?
3. Should Abram have moved to Egypt or should he have trusted God to provide for his household?
4. Should Abram have trusted in God’s protection while in Egypt, or was it sensible to take steps to protect himself?

Unfortunately, he did not learn from this incident. Several years later, it happened again when Abraham went to live in Gerar. Genesis 20:1-18 His son Isaac used the same ploy when he lived in Gerar. Genesis 26:6-11

Honesty is essential
The Bible makes it quite clear that telling lies is sin.

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. (Proverbs 12:22)

Dishonest actions are also condemned.

Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the LORD your
God, who brought you out of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:35-36)

ephah: a dry measure of grain equal to about 22 litres.
hin: a liquid measure equal to about 4 litres.

In trading, the Israelites had to be very careful they sold as much as they claimed to be selling.

The New Testament tells us that liars will not be allowed in the kingdom of God:

Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practises falsehood. (Revelation 22:15)

White lies and half-truths
Some people draw a distinction between “serious” dishonesty and “white lies” (small-scale dishonesty). The Bible makes no such distinction. God says

No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. (Psalm 101:7)

Jesus describes deceit as one of those evil things that defile a person:

What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:20-22)

Instead, we are told to rid ourselves of all deceit, small or great. 1 Peter 2:1

Bribery
Bribery is when money is paid to someone for a favour. It happens frequently, but God hates it. He commanded “Do not accept a bribe”.
Exodus 23:8 David wrote

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? . . . He who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, . . . and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. (Psalm 15:1-5)
See also Isaiah 33:15-16


God calls us to the highest standards of honesty and asks us to avoid all forms of deceit. Big lies, white lies, half-truths, dishonest selling, bribery-they are all condemned in the Bible. Instead, we are to be open and honest with each other.

Be honest
Deuteronomy 5:20; Psalm 5:6; 32:2; 101:7; Proverbs 6:16-19; 12:19,22; Luke 3:14; 2 Corinthians 4:2.
Honesty at work
Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Proverbs 11:1; 16:11; 20:10,23; Colossians 3:22.
Examples of honesty
2 Kings 12:15; 22:4-7; Nehemiah 13:13.
Bribery
Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Psalm 15:5; Proverbs 15:27; Eccle­siastes 7:7; Isaiah 33:15-16; Amos 5:12.

What would you say?

What would you say if . . .

• someone asks “Do you like my new dress” and you think it looks awful?
• you are a doctor and a pharmaceutical company o?ers you $500 to recommend their products to your patients?
• you are asked to write a reference for someone you think is lazy and unreliable?
• you have been somewhere your parents have asked you not to go, and they ask what you have been doing?
• you were hiding a Jew from the Nazis and you were asked if you knew where any Jews were hiding?


1. Consider the following examples where lies were told as part of doing God’s work.

• 1 Kings 22:19-23
• Joshua 2:1-7

Was it acceptable for lies to be told in these cases? If yes, under what circumstances can lies be told?
2. Did Jesus tell a lie in John 7:1-10? How do you explain his actions?


1. Read Genesis 27:1-41. Jacob had been promised that he would be superior to Esau (Genesis 25:23) and he had the birthright which was normally held by the firstborn son (Genesis 25:29-34). So he probably thought he should have the blessing. What did he do wrong in obtaining it? What should he have done?
2. There are some jobs in which you are expected to lie. What are they? How should you handle this?


• Anatomy of a lie by Diane Komp (published by Zondervan, 1998).


16. Temptation
17. Sin
62. Careers and employment
65. Gossip

 
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