A Letter to a Sister in the Lord: How to Be Honest Toward God
By Wang Yue
Sister Wang Yue,
Hi there! I have a question for which I’ve yet to find a good answer—I’d like to seek with regard to this question for a moment. The Lord Jesus taught us, “Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). The Lord Jesus calls for us to be honest people, to be as simple and honest as children and to tell things like they are. Only as such may we enter into the kingdom of heaven. Having read God’s word, I know that being honest is very important and I would like to practice being an honest person in accordance with God’s request. However, in my interactions with people, when it comes to my own personal profit, I can’t bring myself to communicate my actual thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes I lie and deceive—I know this makes God unhappy and afterward I’m always very regretful, but I just can’t help it. I’m feeling very frustrated and don’t know how I ought to resolve this issue. With regard to this aspect of the truth concerning how to be an honest person, I’m curious to hear how you practice. Would you mind fellowshiping with me on this issue?
June 25, 2018
Sister Chen Xin,
Hello! I can empathize with your feelings. In the past, I was just like you—I wanted to respect God’s teachings and be an honest person and to speak the truth from my heart in a forthright and sincere manner whether I was addressing God or other people. However, when the topic related to my own personal profit, dignity or status, I would often be on the verge of saying something, but would hold my tongue, not wanting to express my real beliefs. Sometimes I would even lie or deceive and would hate myself, thinking, “Why can’t you just be an honest person?” That feeling of self-hate became especially intense when I read the Lord Jesus’ word: “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). From the Lord Jesus’ words I saw how, by often lying and deceiving people, I was acting like the devil. God deeply despises such behavior. God has the substance of faithfulness and thus He asks that we also be honest people. Thus, it appears that being an honest person is absolutely crucial for us. Once I learned of the importance of being an honest person, I prayed several times to God and sought the truth to resolve this issue. Later on, I found a passage from a book that describes the source of our inability to be honest people and I also found some ways to practice. In the following, I’ll share some of my insights. I hope they’ll be helpful for you.
The Source of Our Inability to Be Honest
I remember the book contained the following passage: “For many years, the thoughts that people have relied upon for their survival have been corroding their hearts to the point that they have become treacherous, cowardly, and despicable. Not only do they lack willpower and resolve, but they have also become greedy, arrogant, and willful. They are utterly lacking any resolve that transcends the self, and even more, they don’t have a bit of courage to shake off the strictures of these dark influences. People’s thoughts and lives are rotten, their perspectives on believing in God are still unbearably ugly, and even when people speak of their perspectives on belief in God it is simply unbearable to hear. People are all cowardly, incompetent, despicable, as well as fragile. They do not feel disgust for the forces of darkness, and they do not feel love for the light and the truth; instead, they do their utmost to expel them” (“Why Aren’t You Willing to Be a Foil?”).
Through these words, I realized that the source of our inability to practice that aspect of the truth pertaining to being honest is that we have been too profoundly corrupted by Satan. Satanic principles and logic such as, “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies” and satanic philosophies of life, such as, “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face,” “Keeping silent on the faults of good friends makes for a long and good friendship,” and “Silence is golden, speech is silver, and he who talks a lot errs a lot” constrain our thinking and have taken over our hearts. Under the influence of these erroneous ideas and notions, we become ever more crooked, deceitful, selfish and lowly. When faced with various situations, in order to safeguard our own dignity and preserve our status and reputation in the eyes of others, we automatically lie and deceive. For instance, sometimes when we’re making up after having an argument with friends or family, we worry that if we say what we really think then we’ll be looked down upon or derided and may even damage the relationship. Thus, we do everything we can to disguise our feelings and are not willing to discuss our real thoughts. Sometimes we witness a colleague doing something that will have negative consequences for the company or other colleagues, but we don’t dare to call the colleague out for what he or she has done, fearing that the colleague will develop an unfavorable impression of us that might affect future collaboration. Alternately, we worry that the colleague may retaliate against or create difficulties for us in the future, all of which would be disadvantageous for our careers, and so we look the other way. Sometimes we make a mistake in our work and, worrying that we’ll be lectured by our boss or let go and not wanting to take responsibility, we think up every possible reason or excuse to explain away, exonerate or cover up the mistake. Satan works through all manner of satanic poisons, logic and principles to corrupt us and these, in turn, are the things by which we live. Lying becomes a habit, and sometimes, in order to cover up the first lie, we have to make up another lie. We are always on our guard against everyone else and no matter with whom we speak, we never speak truthfully—even in our prayers to God we lack sincerity. God is holy—how could we corrupt, filthy deceitful humans ever expect to have the chance to enter into the kingdom of heaven?
Finding the Way to Become an Honest Person
When I became aware of all this, I wanted even more urgently to learn how to become an honest person. So, I next began seeking a path of practice through the book. Later, I also found the following two passages: “You ought to know that God likes an honest man. God has the substance of faithfulness, and so His word can always be trusted. Furthermore, His actions are faultless and unquestionable. This is why God likes those who are absolutely honest with Him. Honesty means to give your heart to God; never to play Him false in anything; to be open with Him in all things, never hiding the truth; never to do that which deceives those above and deludes those below; and never to do that which merely ingratiates yourself with God. In short, to be honest is to refrain from impurity in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man” (“Three Admonitions”). “You must be honest, and must pray in order to rid yourself of the craftiness in your heart. As you use prayer to purify yourself whenever needed, and use it to be touched by the Spirit of God, your disposition will gradually change” (“Concerning the Practice of Prayer”).
After reading these two passages I felt even clearer—to be an honest person, we must give our hearts to God, accept God’s inspection no matter what we do, and we must also pray to God often, asking that God cleanse us of our treacherous intentions and help us to rid ourselves of our corrupt dispositions. In real life, especially, we must reflect on the intentions behind what we say and do. Are we just trying to protect our dignity, status and personal profit? When we discover that we have the desire to lie or deceive, we should come before God, confess our innermost thoughts to Him and ask that He reprove us, give us courage, guide us to consciously betray our corrupt dispositions and practice in accordance with the Lord Jesus’ teaching, “But let your communication be, Yes, yes; No, no” (Matthew 5:37). In so doing, we can gradually rid ourselves of all manner of corrupt dispositions and live out the semblance of an honest person. When we consciously practice in this way, we will feel very grounded and peaceful in our hearts and will experience ever greater spiritual release. Because we’ve been corrupted so deeply by Satan, at times we will still be constrained by dignity and status and will be incapable of practicing the truth. At such times, our own powers of restraint will be insufficient to solve our issues and we should come before God to ask for help and to ask that He guide us in practicing and entering into this aspect of the truth.
Let me share my own personal experience. I was recently transferred to work in a new division. After a little while, I noticed that my colleagues were extremely talented and were extremely knowledgeable about their line of work. When analyzing project proposals with my colleagues, I often couldn’t keep up with their pace and sometimes didn’t even understand some of the professional terminology they used. I was very anxious and wanted to ask them questions, but I also worried that if I asked they would see that I wasn’t up to their level and they’d look down upon and deride me. As a result, I just wasn’t willing to ask any questions. The next time we met to discuss the project, I just went along with what they said and pretended that I understood everything, but afterward I had to spend a lot of time and energy understanding the project and looking up any aspects of the project I didn’t understand. My work efficiency was very low and I suffered greatly as a result. Thus, I brought my problems before God, praying and seeking. Later, I found the following two passages: “If you wish for others to trust you, first you must be honest. To be honest, you must first lay your heart bare so that everyone can see your heart, see all that you are thinking, and see your true face; you must not pretend or try to cover yourself up. Only then will people trust you and consider you honest. This is the most fundamental practice, and the prerequisite, of being honest” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person”). “Behaving like a normal human being is to speak with coherence. Yes means yes, no means no. Be true to the facts and speak appropriately. Don’t cheat, don’t lie” (“Improving Caliber Is for Receiving God’s Salvation”).
From these two passages, I found a path to practice. If we want to be honest people in whom God delights, we must bring our hearts before God to be inspected. In our speech and actions, we mustn’t cover ourselves up or disguise ourselves, but must be simple and forthright, lay our actual thoughts bare and say exactly what we mean. If we don’t understand, just ask directly. We shouldn’t lie and deceive just to protect our status and image in the eyes of others. What’s more, if I lay bare my faults and shortcomings, accept other people’s suggestions open-mindedly and learn from other people’s strengths, I’ll be able to absorb a lot of professional knowledge. Won’t I make some improvements in this way? Won’t work become a little easier? Being an honest person is the enlightened path down which God guides us, but I abandon that path. I disguise my true self to preserve my dignity and so that others won’t look down on me, pretending to understand even when I don’t. In God’s eyes I’m the treacherous person—I walk the path of darkness and torment shown to me by Satan. Isn’t this foolish?
Once I had understood God’s will, I found the courage to sincerely lay bare my shortcomings and faults to everyone. When collaborating with colleagues, I would actively express my ideas and opinions with regard to areas in which I was knowledgeable, and would ask my colleagues for help with things I didn’t understand. I was surprised to find that, rather than looking down upon or laughing at me, my colleagues would patiently help me. In that moment, I felt a great sense of relaxation and relief and realized that by sincerely laying myself bare and being honest according to God’s word, what I received in return was not the scorn or derision of others, but their patient help and guidance. Most importantly, I never disguised or covered myself up again and life became much less tiring. I felt more peaceful and secure than I ever had before.
Sister Chen Xin, these are some of my experiences and insights. I hope they can be helpful to you. God bolsters us—I hope that you can pray more to God and rely more upon Him. I hope you can open your heart up to God and be an honest person, leaving behind your gloomy suffering and attaining true release and freedom as soon as possible!
May God bless you, Amen!
June 26, 2018