By S. Leonard Tyler

Dishonesty is distasteful, despicable, detested and even hated by most people but lies., at least dormant,.if not digging, within the secrets of every man’s heart. Is it not characteristic of most of us to shift, squirm, imply,, by, pass, overlook, shun. or out-right lie about certain acts, duties, feelings or intentions? Would you not classify such as dishonest? This should impress us with the pertinence of our study. Behold, dishonesty may well lie smoldering within your own heart ready to flame-up and destroy. Dishonesty as any impurity does not dictate every thought and act, but along life’s way somewhere it sends forth its venom and the work is started.

What Is Dishonesty?

“Dishonest implies a willful perversion of truth in order to deceive, cheat, or defraud” (Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary). “The reverse of honesty; lack of probity or integrity; disposition to lie, cheat, or steal; fraud or thefts; a dishonest act” (The New Century Dictionary). W.E. Vine in his New Testament Words gives, “Dishonesty; aischune . . ., shame, so the R.V. in 2 Cor. 4:2 (for A.V., `dishonesty’), is elsewhere rendered `shame,’ Luke 14:9; Phil. 3:19; Heb. 12:2; Jude 13; Rev. 3:18” (p. 318).

Dishonesty, to me, is an attitude or disposition of self-centeredness, exaltation of one’s own wisdom, pleasure, desire, judgment, imagination and ambitions as the standard for life without due consideration or appreciation otherwise for right or wrong, good or evil. It is an attitude without regard to right principles or even truth itself. Oh yes, the degree of pressure or environmental circumstances determine whatever consideration is given but not what is right or wrong, good or evil. Morton Hunt wrote an article entitled, “How Honest Are You?” which appeared in Ladies Home Journal (Vol. XCVI, No. 5, May 1979); I wish all could and would read it. He deals with the practical, general and practiced concept of honesty. He also raises many challenging and staggering questions as well as giving some alarming statistics. He well establishes our point of view as to the general guilt, destructive consequences and prevalent need for some cure of dishonesty.

Too many pick up towels, linens, etc. out of motels, cram expense accounts, pick up little things in stores, forget income or overload the deductibles on tax returns, add to damaged cars in accidents- to save the $100:00 deductible, not mentioning “not at home”‘responses when certain people appear at the door or when the phone rings. In these, we need to watch out lest we teach our children to lie. Some lie in order to climb a little higher on the social ladder (what about in business, politics, doctors’ placebo pills?). Others manifest just plain pretentious false action, and on and on we could go. Our society has certainly become dishonest.

Honesty And Dishonesty Are Opposites

The wise approach to out study, it seems to me, is to look at the positive side, honesty. Since dishonesty is the opposite of honesty, one should settle his own mind as to honesty. Opposites.’ are’ not definitions but antonyms contrary in tendency or character or meaning. A definition is “a statement of the essential nature of anything; a formal statement of the meaning or signification of a word, phrase, etc.” (The New Century Dictionary). What. is it to be honest or dishonest?

0 . Thayer in his Greek-English. Lexicon Of The New Testament (p, 322) gives, “Kalos (prob. primarily `sound,’ `hale,’ `whole;’) . . . beautiful applied by the ,Greeks to everything so distinguished in form, excellence, goodness, usefulness, . . ” and gives “(c) beautiful by reason of purity or heart and life, and hence praiseworthy, morally good, noble . . . .” W. E. Vine in his New Testament Word Study under Honest, lists “Semnos” in Phil. 4:8 translated in A.V. “honest” and “Euschemonos” as rendered “honestly” in Rom. 13:13; 1 Thess. 4:12.

Therefore, an honest heart is open and receptive to truth and right and will, to the extent of its ability, properly appropriate all the knowledge with genuine sincerity to ascertain and accept the right conclusions. It is uncontaminated with selfish, prejudicial opinions or calloused biases and earnestly seeks to find and walk in the right ways of life.

An honest heart can be ignorantly wrong but can never knowingly continue in the wrong. An honest or dishonest heart is characterized by attitude – not knowledge, accomplishment not right or wrong. An honest heart acts upon and within the bounds of the knowledge possessed with sincerity and confidence that such action is good and right. The understanding may be faulty but in ignorance one acts honestly. This is following one’s conscience. What one feels or thinks, according to his knowledge, is proper and right must dictate his action, if he is honest. However, his doing such does not make it right. “What makes right?”, you may ask. The proper standard of established Truth. In spiritual matters, God’s word, the Bible, is that standard of authority (Jn. 12:48; Jn. 3:4; 2 Jn. 9). Let me illustrate.

Paul Is An Example

Paul persecuted Christians; he laid waste the church of our Lord and gave consent to Stephen’s death, but he was honest (Acts 8; 23:1). He thought God wanted him to do exactly what he did, i.e. “many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9-11); notwithstanding, he was wrong. Thinking a thing to be right does not make it right, regardless of how honest one may be. Paul tells his own story in 1 Tim. 1:11-16. He said, “I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” Ignorance does not justify, excuse or make right any more than unbelief in this statement. However, if and when one acts within the bounds of his own knowledge, thinking that to be right, he acts honestly. But remember, when one learns truth, honesty demands that he accept it. Paul did that with readiness of mind and heart and fully committed himself to Jesus Christ and, whom He once ignorantly persecuted, he now lovingly and faithfully proclaimed as both Lord and Christ (Gal. 1:13-24).

God’s truth establishes what is right spiritually (2 Pet. 1:3). Jesus told those who would abide in His word, “Then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jnp. 8:31-32). Paul was honest and gladly gave up all things “for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Acts 22:16; Phil. 3:8).

Felix And Agrippa Examples

Felix with his wife Drusilla heard Paul reason upon “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” Felix trembled, and answered, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25). He wanted money and the convenient season never came. Dishonesty is deadly and unending.

Agrippa with Bernice, in great pomp, heard Paul’s appeal and responded, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28). His heart was not open to truth and he declined the Lord’s invitation. Paul pleaded, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds,” to no avail.

The Parable Of The Sower

Jesus explains the parable of the sower who sowed seed upon different kinds of ground. (1) The wayside hearts hear but make no pretentions to obey. The Devil comes and snatches the word out of the heart. (2) The rocky ground hearts hear and receive the word with joy but lacking of root depth, fell away (dishonesty reigned). (3) The thorny ground hearts receive and go forth to be choked out with cares, riches and pleasures of this life. These seek self-fulfilment of fleshly desires and the word is cast aside. They loved unrighteous more than the righteousness of God (2 Thess. 2:10-12).

The good ground hearts, “the honest and good heart,” receive (believe and obey) and produced fruit with patience. These are the people who with open eyes, ears and hearts hear the voice of the Lord with understanding and their lives were changed. They are the converted because they received the word of the Lord (Matt. 13:18-23; Luke 8:11-15; Luke 6:46; James 1:21-25).

Dishonesty Within The Ranks Of The Believers

Ananias and Sapphira planned together to deceive in the gift of their possessions. Peter asked, “Why hath Satan filled throe heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” (Acts 5:1-11). Here is demonstrated God’s disposition toward dishonesty. We might well take notice and beware of the consequences. These fell dead.

Simon the sorcerer thought he could buy the power of God with money. Peter told him that his heart was not right with God. He responded to the reproval and asked for their prayers (Acts 8:13-24). These cases are relevant to our time of prosperity and ability to give liberally and cheerfully without pretentious cravings or deceitful ambitions. Christians are to purpose in their hearts and give according to prosperity. What kind of hearts do we have?

All hypocritical action is dishonesty. “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth” (Eph. 4:29). Gossipers, evil speakers, tattlers or any bitter, wrath and anger prompted clamor is dishonesty at work, but “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Eph. 4:25-32; Col. 3:8-9; 1 Pet. 2:; Matt. 12:34). Dishonesty is too often manifested in repeated stories.

Dishonesty Among Elders, Deacons, Preachers, And Teachers

Paul told the elders of Ephesus that after his departure grievous wolves would enter not sparing the flock, “also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). False doctrine is just as damnable when taught by an elder as by a grievous wolf. It is not who teaches but what is taught. No one has the prerogative to speak for the Lord. His word is revealed. “If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11).

John complimented the Ephesians for trying certain false apostles and finding them liars (Rev. 2:2). He also branded Diotrephes with dishonesty because he was seeking the preeminence and “prating against us with malicious words” and would not receive faithful evangelists nor even allow others to receive them without casting them out of the church (3 John 9-10).

Peter and Jude portray so vividly dishonest teachers. Peter impresses us by saying, “There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies,” and even deny the Lord. Jude identifies “certain men crept in unawares . . . ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness .. . . walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (2 Pet. 2; Jude). These were ungodly and dishonest but were teaching with great swelling words. Jesus says, “All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mk. 7:23).

Dishonesty is a condition of heart and must be guarded against all the days of one’s life. Dishonesty will destroy one’s character, steal his integrity, and strip him of all worthy confidence and trust. It is truly a destroying attitude and a terrible condition of heart and will ultimately destroy the soul. No wonder Solomon said, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus said, “How can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matt. 12:34-35). Keep thine ownself honest before God.


  1. Define dishonesty.
  2. Cite some examples of dishonesty which might appear insignificant to the world or even to some who profess to be Christians.
  3. What makes the difference between an honest heart and a dishonest heart.
  4. Does the Bible give any examples of those who were honest and sincere but wrong?
  5. What was God’s attitude toward those who had obeyed the gospel and disobeyed by being dishonest in some form?

Truth Magazine XXIII: 24, pp. 386-389
June 14, 1979