Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things,
Having covered “truth” in the first part of this Makeover series, we are now ready to move on with our renovation project. As we proceed, it is essential to note that we do not put down truth in order to pick up honesty. Honesty is a continuation of what has already begun with truth.
Honesty? Aren’t honesty and truth synonymous? If so, why does the Holy Spirit list them both in Scripture?
Truth – Honesty. What distinguishes one from the other? Knowing that Scripture does not “stutter,” and every word is purposeful and meaningful should compel us to investigate. Checking any good Bible dictionary will reveal that it is the Greek word semnos, which has been translated into English as honesty in the above verse. It is defined as grave, venerable (accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character), honesty.
A quick search for other occurrences of this Greek word in the Bible uncovers only three additional verses. This would not be obvious if we were simply reading our English Bibles, because the translators have chosen to translate semnos using different English words or phrases. Perhaps a look at these verses may help us understand what honesty is, as well as what it is not!
1 Timothy 3:8
In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect (semnos), sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.
We can see that the same word translated as honesty in Philippians 4:8 has been rendered as worthy of respect and sincere. This verse also reveals what it is NOT honesty. Indulging in much wine and pursuing dishonest gain are NOT honesty!
1 Timothy 3:11
In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect (semnos), not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
Now, we can add that an honest person does not talk maliciously and is trustworthy in everything.
We find our last verse in Titus 2:2
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect (semnos), self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Temperate (safe in mind), self-control, sound in faith, sound in love and endurance are characteristics of an honest person.
It is essential to investigate what the Scripture means by a word or concept rather than accept what the world says. For instance, in days past, it would not have been necessary to define “worthy of respect.” It almost always would have been understood to be connected to high moral character. Today, such is not the case. “Respect” is often given to the person who makes the most money, raps the best rap, plays the best game, has the most friends, likes, streams, etc. It is not at all based on a code of moral ethics, and certainly not on Scripture.
Interestingly, the way the Scriptures define honesty and the current legal definition differs significantly. Are you aware that an attorney is required to be honest but has no such obligation to be truthful? Now, if you find that difficult to reconcile in your mind, you are not alone! Stated another, perhaps more alarming, way – an attorney is prohibited from telling a lie (he must be “honest”). However, he is NOT required to seek or bring out the truth.
Let me offer this brief fictitious illustration of honesty vs. truth in our legal system, and I believe you will instantly understand why attorneys desire to limit witness responses to a simple yes or no.
A year after an “alleged” victim reports having been brutally attacked in her home, the case has finally come to trial. The defendant’s attorney approaches the witness stand to question the victim.
Isn’t it true, Ms. V, that you did not initiate a police report on this alleged assault for over two months following the date you allege it to have occurred? Answer yes or no, please.
Now, Ms. V, I must remind you that these questions are yes and no ONLY questions.
And isn’t it also true that you spoke to no one of the supposed assault during those two months? In fact, you did not even call your mother or father for support during what would have been an extremely challenging time? Answer yes or no.
And was that because my client made threats to you during that time? Yes or no, please.
Okay, no further questions.
This does sound a bit suspicious, doesn’t it? Is the supposed victim out for some sort of vengeance against a spurned lover? Why would she wait so long to report such a supposedly vicious crime?
JUDGE – Your witness, Mr. Prosecutor
Okay, Mrs. V. I know today has been very difficult for you. I do need to ask a few more questions, however.
Now, the counsel for the defense has pointed out that you made no attempt to report this vicious assault for more than two months. Would you please explain to the jury the reason for such a delay?
Yes, sir. Following the attack, I was found by my daughter, who called 911. I don’t remember it, but I’m told I was lying in a pool of blood and was unconscious. I remained in a coma for 63 days. And even when I woke up, I had no recollection of what had happened.
No recollection at all? Can you tell the jury if you were given a medical reason for this lapse of memory?
Yes. The doctors say it was due to blunt force trauma to the head, causing excessive bleeding and swelling of the brain.
When did your memory return?
A few days after regaining consciousness, I began having brief flashbacks. But it wasn’t until the detectives were cleared by my doctors to interview me, and they showed me pictures of someone they said was me lying on my bed that the flashbacks became more vivid and frequent.
What do you mean “they said” it was you?
The lady in the pictures didn’t look anything like me! She was covered in blood and bruises. Her face was a mess, and her eyes were swollen completely shut. She barely looked human! I simply could not believe that it was me! I mean, I knew it was me. It was just bizarre to see how I looked!
Did you, at that time, provide the detectives with the name of the defendant?
No, I didn’t know his name. They returned a couple of days later with a photo lineup. As soon as I saw his face, I began to shudder and even threw up. The nurses had to give me a sedative.
Okay, Ms. V. So, while the defense attorney was correct when he said you did not report this crime for more than two months and did not speak of it to family and friends, the fact is that you were so severely injured that doing so would have been impossible. In fact, you were comatose!
Thank you for clearing that up, Ms. V.
Do you see how the defense attorney’s insistence on yes or no answers resulted in honest answers (not lies) but failed (by design) to elicit the truth?? Note that the defense attorney did not lie. Ms. V did NOT make a report for 60+ days. She did not call her parents or friends. However, the defense attorney was NOT seeking truth and in fact, would not ALLOW the victim to disclose the truth.
Now we can understand that this modern version of “honesty” is NOT what the Scripture is instructing us to meditate upon. We began with truth, and now we add to it honesty (worthy of respect).
This week continue meditating on truth and add to it honesty. Check your behavior. Does it demonstrate a desire for a character that is worthy of respect, not being malicious or greedy? Does it display Biblical honesty? Are you growing in truth as well? Continue tearing down the old structure and building the new. Remember, you are a new creation and renovation is underway! \lsdlock