Most people may think of themselves as honest, because they do not engage in what they regard as “serious” acts of dishonesty.  But, it is likely that many of these same people engage, at least occasionally, in acts that they regard as “insignificant” dishonesty.  Perhaps, the primary reason a lot of these people do not think they are being dishonest when they engage in such acts is that they believe that many, if not most, other people engage in similar behaviors and, therefore, such behaviors are normal.

So, what might be a good way to determine the types of behaviors that indicate whether or not a person is, in fact, behaving dishonestly?  We believe that the definition provided by Webster’s Dictionary is adequate in making such a determination.  Webster states that being dishonest “implies the act or practice of telling a lie, or of cheating, deceiving, stealing, etc.”  Note that this definition does not distinguish between “serious” acts of dishonesty and “insignificant” acts of dishonesty.  All acts of dishonesty are wrong.

There is no need for this article to discuss whether or not burglary, robbery, embezzlement, etc. are dishonest behaviors, since virtually everyone would acknowledge that these acts are serious types of dishonesty. In contrast, most lying and deception, as well as trivial cheating and petty theft, are almost certainly among the most prevalent types of behavior that people tend to dismiss as only insignificant dishonesty.

We will not discuss lying and deception in this article, because we do so in our article entitled “What Does the Bible Say about What We Say?”  [To read that article, click on its title.]  In contrast, this article is intended primarily to help people realize that when they engage in trivial cheating and/or petty theft, such behavior may generally be excused in our society, but the Bible does not provide any reason to believe that either of these types of acts is automatically excused by God.

To be sure that the readers of this article understand what we mean when we refer to “trivial cheating” and “petty theft,” we will now pause to define these two terms.

We define trivial cheating as not causing serious harm to other people in dealings that involve either financial or non-financial matters.  Examples of trivial cheating include knowingly not abiding by one or more of the rules in athletic competition, exaggerating qualifications on an employment application form, and using an unauthorized source of information to obtain answers when taking a scholastic exam.

As for petty theft, we define it as not paying for or getting appropriate permission to take and keep, something of relatively little value that belongs to someone else.  Examples of petty theft include borrowing a low-cost item from someone and intentionally not giving it back, pilfering an inexpensive item from the perpetrator’s place of employment, and shoplifting a cheap item of merchandise from a vendor.

Some people may argue that God takes into consideration the reasons why people engage in trivial cheating or petty theft, especially if their cheating does not cause significant harm to other people.  Those who make this argument may think that it is reasonable to believe that God will judge more leniently the stealing of a loaf of bread or some other relatively low-value item, if a person needs the item but does not have enough money to purchase it, than He will judge a person who steals such an item despite the fact that he (or she) has ample money to pay for it.

Perhaps, such a belief is correct, but the Bible does not support the presumption that God will not hold a person responsible for committing trivial cheating or petty theft, even if the person does so to satisfy his (or her) genuine needs.  In other words, the Bible does not excuse these types of acts, regardless of whether or not the person who engages in such behavior sincerely believes that he (or she) is not able to have their needs met otherwise.  In any case, if the Bible did sanction such behavior, more people probably would convince themselves that it is alright for them to engage in trivial cheating or petty theft whenever they convince themselves that they have a genuine need.  As a result, these people would be less inclined to earnestly seek alternatives that could enable them to meet their needs honestly.


Although most people may think of themselves as honest, many of these people are guilty of, at least, trivial cheating and/or petty theft, which the Bible does not excuse for any reason.  Therefore, everyone who sincerely wants to be honest should refrain from engaging in such behavior, even if these acts are generally excused by our society.  God desires that every person – especially, Christians – be holy, which includes not engaging in even trivial cheating and petty theft.  [For an in-depth discussion about people being holy, click on “Can Anyone Except God Be Holy?]

Rather than attempting to justify their trivial cheating and petty theft, people who have genuine needs should earnestly pray that God will help them in their efforts to meet their needs.  However, when they pray, they need to be aware of how to pray effectively.  Our articles entitled “How to Pray Effectively” and “Why Prayers May Not Be Answered” should be helpful in this regard.  [To learn what each of these articles says, click on its title.]