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Editorial: Discern the truth about dishonesty

Especially with the 2020 presidential election looming, public opinions are a tangle of pointed fingers obsessed with the exposure of hypocrisy. College students are inundated with the media obsessing over alleged deception tied to President Trump’s taxes, former Vice President Biden’s autonomy or ballot voting in general. In tandem, the claim to unbiased reporting by the media itself is under fire.

Beyond national media circles, the questioning of honesty hits personal lives. During the pandemic, many college students are taking proctored tests at home to prevent cheating. But on social media, it’s entertainment to not only flaunt cheating methods but also make comedy bits on deceiving parents.

Christians must learn both how to discern dishonesty in the world and how to guard against it in their own lives.

The first lie in the Garden of Eden set a rampant precedent of dishonesty throughout the human race. Abraham asked Sarah to lie about her relationship to him. Ananias and Sapphira, who lied about the way they used their money, and Peter, who lied about knowing Jesus, are also potent examples of dishonesty in the Bible.

Lies are so natural to our sinful state that they can slip out without our even knowing, especially in social situations. You know you’re not really going to look up the website someone recommended. Do you actually remember who that person is? Even “white” lies can callous a heart against the Holy Spirit’s prompting in more serious situations.

But not all dishonesty comes in the form of direct lies. Deceit is intentionally misleading someone to believe something that is not true, even if you have not directly told an untruth in order to do it. Omitting a flaw when you sell something, positioning yourself to be an expert on an unfamiliar topic and cheating on a quiz are examples of deception. Jacob’s sons deceived him into believing a wild animal had killed their brother Joseph by showing his bloody coat and answering his questions indirectly.

However, the easiest and perhaps the most dangerous form of deception isn’t external. James 1:22 directly addresses self-deception, saying, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Deceiving yourself into believing you’re right with God when you’re not is a sin. Convincing your conscience that something is acceptable when it’s not is a sin. James 1:8 says a double minded man is unstable in everything he does, and 1 John 2:4 says a person who says he knows God but doesn’t do what God commands is a liar.

Dishonesty, whether a direct lie or conscious deception of others or yourself, dishonors God. Colossians 3:9 calls Christians to honesty now that lying has been put away with the old self. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

Christians are called to come out from the sinful habits of the world. If you find yourself trapped in dishonesty, make it right with both God and man. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide your conscience by catching yourself in a lie and humbly correcting it in the moment. Directly address your wrongdoing with those whom you deceived, and examine yourself under Scripture to know if you are deceiving yourself.