"Honesty is the best policy," but unfortunately, there are very few who believe in the best policy.
What would you say was the proportion of really honest people in your own village, town, or country? I do not mean those who are only sometimes honest, or who can be diplomatically honest on occasion, to suit their own ends, but people who make a real effort to be thoroughly honest always. While no human being is always honest, yet there are some who make an earnest effort to be so.
It is not very difficult to identify the truly honest person. He or she will soon manifest the quality. Along with honesty there must go other fine qualities, such as conscience, sympathy, humility, and consideration for others.
How many of your friends and acquaintances keep their promises, and can be relied upon to do so? How many people do you know who are invariably punctual? How often have you made a solemn promise and later changed your mind? Would it not be wiser to refrain from making promises, than to break a promise? Those who are too glib at making promises usually forget them too easily.
There are many "part time" honest people. At work, under supervision, they require to be honest, but alas, away from watching eyes, pride often makes them think they can get away with it and commit theft or shirk work.
Pride lies at the root of most crimes and offences. But the really honest person is always humble, not proud.
Sometimes it is even the editors who are not quite honest. I have been amused at the number of them who say they "lack space" to deal with a certain matter. But almost every time, if one turns over some pages, a blank space is found which could easily have accommodated the statement required.
Then there is the friend who sends you a letter, written or rather scribbled "in haste." He says he will "write later," but I have found this usually means "do not expect another letter." One feels rather humiliated to get a letter written "in haste," unless there is real proof of that haste having been necessary.
What about the person who writes a letter you can hardly decipher? Of course, he or she can read it, but does not recognize that perhaps you can make little or nothing of it. I would not think such a person is very honest. If he were honest, he would acquire a typewriter, and cease tormenting and distracting the reader.
One very extraordinary feature in dishonesty is that the guilty person generally fails to observe that if he only confessed openly, he would rise in the opinion of those who know him. But generally he keeps silent, thinking that he can hide his dishonesty. Why should it be so difficult for such a person to make a clean breast of things? Especially if he is aware that he must give an account of himself to God?, Hiding an act of dishonesty does not make one honest, or give him any satisfaction. This is notably the case with those who write about theological matters, or who make translations of the Scriptures. Revelation 22:18-19 is a very solemn warning to such.
Here is something which Alfred T. Schofield wrote over sixty years ago:
Do not imagine that you can escape the Judgment Seat of the Christ (2. Cor. 5:10; Romans 14:10). The fact that this is not mentioned in the "Prison Epistles" does not imply that you will not stand there. Even Paul, a most sensitive and honest man, brings himself into this scene. In both verses the word all is emphatic, so that no saint will escape this requital for good and bad actions. But do not overlook that this rectification and requital will only work out a most beneficent result. We shall require to admit our shortcomings, and that will be as great a blessing as admitting here and now in the present life any dishonesty.
It may seem strange that in the Old Testament of the James Bible the words honest, honesty and honestly are not found. Instead, however, the word righteous is often found, and it includes the idea of honesty. In the A.V. New Testament we find the words honest, honesty and honestly, ten times in all. But not in one of these ten cases does the Greek word signify those meanings. The reason is, partly, that round about the time of Wiclif and later, honesty meant honour or respectability. In the fourteenth century in England ladies adorned themselves "honesteliche" (honestly) to "befool the men." One who was "honestly arrayed" was respectably dressed. A common greeting in Northern England was "Honest man!" which meant "Honourable man."
Wiclif and Purvey at Rom. 13:13 and 1. Thess. 4:12 read onestli, which was retained in the King James Version, as honestly. The Concordant Version reads "respectably," and the R.S.V. reads "becomingly" and "respect." But it is strange that the R.S.V. at Luke 8:15 reads "honest" like the King James, where the Greek word is kalos, meaning "excellent," as it should also be in the King James at Romans 12:17; 2. Cor. 8:21; 13:7; 1. Peter 2:12.
In the Concordance of the Concordant Version the word "honor" is to be found, but there is no sign of "honesty."
We must not assume that we ourselves are the honest ones. The worst liars think they are perfectly honest.
It ought to be easier to admit error than to accept praise or glory. We are not true to ourselves when we are not honest.
If we confessed our faults and sins openly to others, we would become more and more honest. But we hear very little of people of this nature.
Very often religious writers publish books so as to raise their reputation and make themselves famous. Such people cannot tolerate being nonentities. It is human glory that they are after. They are not honest toward God.
It seems there must be sects among God's people. But it is very dishonest for any sect to claim superiority to another, as every sect doubtless thinks its views are correct, or as nearly correct as possible. In the day of reckoning God will certainly give no priority to any human sect. I once knew of a man who shouted concerning the people he was associated with, "We are NOT a Sect!" Oh no; of course he and his fellows were above that. And yet I proved that some of his associates had produced translations of the Scriptures which contained a great many sheer blunders.
I would not call sects wrong bodies, as it is only human and natural that they should be. There exists no way to avoid them. But sectarianism is decidedly wrong. Every sect has many wrong beliefs, and ought to admit the fact honestly, as no individual possesses all the Truth.
When one both fears and loves God, it is so easy to be honest; but the dishonest person cannot fear or love God.
A.T. Last updated 27.4.2006