We recognise that honesty in what we say and do is a standard to live by, but for some this is a struggle. Handling our finances requires honesty to ourselves and to others. Have you ever been tempted not to pay for something or to pick up something that does not belong to you? At work or in business, have you ever been tempted to bend the truth or not been fully transparent when trying to sell something?
While you may regard yourself as an honest person, we are all engaged in a battle between flesh and Spirit. In Genesis after Noah and his family had made their first burnt sacrifice on dry ground the Lord said that He would not curse the ground because of man, “even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). When Jesus explained the meaning of a parable He said that, “…those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18-19, NKJV). That’s quite a list of daunting characteristics to avoid alignment with. While we focus here on our finances, the full extent of these principles reaches into many areas of our lives.
Truthfulness is one of God’s attributes
God is repeatedly identified as the God of truth. “I am…the truth” (John 14:6); “speaks the truth from the heart” (Psalm 15:2) and “does his neighbour no harm” (Psalm 15:3) are underlying fundamental requirements in obeying the Ten Commandments. The eight and ninth Commandments instruct us: “You shall not steal. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour” (Exodus 20:15-16, NKJV). Leviticus 19:11 restates these commandments instructing us, “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” Our society imprisons those who commit ‘serious’ acts of theft – but which of us has not stolen something that belongs to another - a writing pen, a postage stamp, or work time? Ananias and Sapphira died because they were dishonest – and they had lied to the Apostles about something that actually belonged to them!
Paul in his letter to the Galatian Church instructed Christians to, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16-17). The desire of the Spirit is for us to be honest. The absolutely honest life is supernatural - “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). We need to submit ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ as Lord and allow Him to live His life through us. There is no other way.
Scripture teaches us to avoid the company of dishonest people because they influence those with whom they associate. Giving generously to those in need is also a spiritual act that disinfects dishonest intentions.
Unfortunately we sometimes slip and act dishonestly. Once we recognise it, we need to act to restore our relationship with God. 1 John 1:9 tells us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We should agree with God that our dishonesty was sin and then thankfully accept His gracious forgiveness so we can again enjoy His fellowship.
Restore your relationship with the harmed person, even if your dishonesty was only a boast or any other form of untrue account. James, Jesus’ brother who was converted after the resurrection, wrote that we should, “confess our sins to each other” (James 5:16). We cannot obey God by practising dishonesty. Failing to confess and restore relationships may result in a lack of financial prosperity: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13, RSV).
If anything has been acquired dishonestly it should be returned to its rightful owner, “Then it shall be, when he sins and becomes guilty, that he shall restore what he took by robbery…or anything about which he swore falsely; he shall make restitution for it in full and add to it one-fifth more. He shall give it to the one to whom it belongs” (Leviticus 6:4-5, NASB).
Restitution is a tangible expression of repentance and an effort to correct wrong. Zacchaeus is a good example. He promised Jesus, “if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
The rewards promised for honesty:
- Blessing of a more intimate relationship with the Lord: “for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence” (Proverbs 3:32).
- Blessings on the family: “the righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him” (Proverbs 20:7).
- Blessings of life: “truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (Proverbs 12:19).
- Blessings of prosperity: “the house of the righteous contains great treasure, but the income of the wicked brings them trouble” (Proverbs 15:6).
God requires us to be honest. Let us examine ourselves and repent of any area where dishonesty has crept in – or even become a way of life for us. As we repent, He will forgive and this will restore our fellowship with Him – and others.