When someone says, “I’m telling you the honest truth,” you either believe it or you don’t. You have to weigh the balance between whether that person can be trusted or not. You might want to see any evidence that proves the person is being totally truthful. You could also see if there’s a pattern from the past that shows the person has or hasn’t always been honest.
The honest truth is, it’s not always easy to be totally honest. Face it…we can be so brutally honest about the way we feel about something or someone that if we really said what we’re thinking we’d hurt those we love and make a lot more enemies than friends.
It’s possible to be so honest, that it can turn into insults. Imagine saying things like,
“To be honest…
…don’t you need a license to be that ugly?”
…any resemblance between you and an idiot is only natural.”
…your breath is bad enough to bleach my hair.”
…is that your nose or are you eating a banana?”
…if I had a face like yours, I’d sue my parents.”
The truth is, this is not quite the “honesty” that we’d expect to hear from those who are mindful of Psalm 64:3 where it describes persons “who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow.” And yet, we can find ourselves in certain sticky situations when we’d like to be honest without trying to hurt someone’s feelings.
This reminds me of a funny story. A woman and her husband were invited to her rich aunt’s home for dinner. The wife insisted that the husband treat the aunt politely. Her dessert was an original recipe. It was terrible. The husband responded, “I must say this is the best cake I have ever tasted.”
On the way home, his wife told him that she had not meant that he had to lie to her aunt.
The husband replied, “I told the truth; I said, I must say this is the best cake I ever tasted.”
Honesty and truth go hand in hand. Honesty is sincerity of truth. Truth is accepted in honesty.
Both are characteristics of believers. In Joshua 24:14, Joshua told the people of Israel, “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; cast aside the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” Israel was forbidden to worship “the gods” or idols that pagan nations worshipped. If they were going to worship and serve the one true God, they must be honestly sincere in God’s truth.
The fact that there is only one God is one truth that never changes. That’s because God does not change for he declared, “For I, the LORD, do not change…” (Malachi 3:6). The fact that God does not change is an indication of his perfect character. And it’s when we put our faith in the one God that we allow him to shape our character and beliefs.
As we honestly submit to his will and follow his instructions, our own ideas and inclinations change for the better. But if we turn to dishonesty and do not apply his truth or conform to his will, we will never change for the better. It is written, “An honest man alters his ideas to fit the truth. And a dishonest man alters the truth to fit his ideas.” Honestly, if we try to alter the truth to fit into our ideas, we will be no different than the nations who worshipped other gods.
Honesty and truth based on God’s Word are important in at least three ways for those who follow Christ. First, we honor God with honesty and truth. Second, we trust God with honesty and truth. Third, we serve God with honesty and truth.
(1) We honor God with honesty and truth by obeying his commandments. The ninth commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exodus 20:16). In other words, one who aims to honor God will not lie but will tell the truth (Leviticus 19:11). In this way, we honor God for, unlike humanity, God does not lie (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18). The Bible tells us that lying is serious business when it comes to whether or not we will be in the Kingdom of God. It says that “…all liars…will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” come Judgement Day (Revelation 21:8). Whether it’s a boldfaced lie, little white lie, or merely stretching the truth, it all comes under the umbrella of dishonesty. And since dishonesty is not being truthful, it does not honor God. We, however, aim to honor God in honesty and truth.
(2) We trust God with honesty and truth. Trust is one of the three elements of faith, the other two being belief and confidence. Since our faith includes trusting God, we know we can trust his power to transform or change our lives (Romans 12:2). At our conversion to Christ (via faith, repentance, baptism) we no longer live in the dishonest ways of the world but the honest ways of God through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. One good example of the way trust in God changes us in honesty and truth is in the workplace. Take a look at Proverbs 16:11-21 paraphrased from The Message (MSG):
11 God cares about honesty in the workplace; your business is his business.
12 Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation.
13 Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.
14 An intemperate leader wreaks havoc in lives; you’re smart to stay clear of someone like that.
15 Good-tempered leaders invigorate lives; they’re like spring rain and sunshine.
16 Get wisdom – it’s worth more than money; choose insight over income every time.
17 The road of right living bypasses evil; watch your step and save your life.
18 First pride, then the crash – the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.
19 It’s better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous.
20 It pays to take life seriously; things work out when you trust in God.
21 A wise person gets known for insight; gracious words add to one’s reputation.
These same principles apply the same way in any area of life whether it be in the home, the school, or in any organization in which we are associated, and especially, the church (2 Cor. 8:21; Philippians 4:8-9).
(3) We serve God with honesty and truth. Earlier, I referred to Joshua’s admonition to the people of Israel in regard to serving God in sincerity and truth (Josh. 24:14). The church carried out these words as exemplified by the apostle and other leaders. The Apostle Paul testified concerning his own honesty and truthfulness as he served the Lord—“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my own conscience bearing witness in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 9:1) . In Ephesians 4:17-24, he urged the church at Ephesus to “walk in the light” which included renewal in God’s Power, as well as honesty and truth. Then, in verse 25, he said, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
When we serve the Lord out of honesty and truth as instructed, our relationships will improve, our attitudes will change, and our chances for success with increase. We serve God through Christ remembering that…
• Good people are honest (Prov. 11;13);
• God expects honesty and fairness in business (Prov. 16:11);
• Honesty and truth are marks of being good stewards (Luke 16:10-15);
• We will have a clean conscience if we are honest and truthful (1 Tim. 1:19; Heb. 13:18-19).
Honesty and truth are the products of Christians who are committed to living the teachings of the scriptures. The Apostle Paul outlined these teachings in Ephesians 4:4-7, “There is one body, and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” When we build our lives on these teachings, we will be on a solid foundation for growing in God’s wonderful grace (Eph. 4:13-16) with the expectation of entering God’s glorious Kingdom when Jesus comes (2 Peter 1:5-12). And that’s God’s honest truth!
Here’s a song about honesty, “If We’re Honest,” by Francesca Battistelli,
Good News to YOU!