Cheating – What's the Real Price?

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

Have you ever cheated?
Most people will say they have. Many think it's okay so long as they don't get caught. Lots of people get away with cheating.

But at the same time, honesty is one of the five defining factors of ethics across all cultures (Institute for Global Ethics). Honesty is essential in establishing a good friendship, relationship, business partnership, political alliance, or marriage.

So, if cheating is okay, then something's out of whack here. There's a double standard.

Do people really believe that cheating does something for them? Do they think it will get them a good grade, land a job, make a deal, win an election, bring in more money, buy friendship, secure happiness?

What do people get when they cheat?
Maybe they get exactly what they think they want. But at what price?

The Bible tells us:

  • "Make it to the top by lying and cheating; get paid with smoke and a promotion—to death!" (The Message, Prov 21:6).
  • "You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way" (The Message, James 4:4).

When we cheat, trying to do what we want and ignoring God's will, we walk down a path that takes us away from God, toward death. Wow! That's pretty strong. It's also very clear.

Now, people don't always die when they cheat. But what does die is…

  • our understanding of our unity with God,
  • our memory of who we are as God's image and likeness,
  • our knowledge of what it means to inherit God's kingdom.

We're losing a tremendous amount of good when we cheat.

But what about those small things that seem so inconsequential? Jesus explains:

If you're honest in small things,
          you'll be honest in big things; 
      If you're a crook in small things,
          you'll be a crook in big things.
      If you're not honest in small jobs,
          who will put you in charge of the store?
      No worker can serve two bosses:
         He'll either hate the first and love the second
      Or adore the first and despise the second.
         You can't serve both God and the Bank
         (The Message, Luke 16:10)

Whatever we practice, we bring into our lives.

  • If we practice being honest, we're honest.
  • If we practice cheating, we'll bring in all the effects of a cheating lifestyle, which is one that does not honor or serve God.

We can't cheat and serve God. Serving God is what we live for. If we serve ourselves, we're missing the whole point of life, of being a Christian.

In addition to cheating on God, we're also cheating on others. Sometimes it seems that what we do couldn't possibly hurt others (and we're not even thinking about God). But it does!

People often feel extremely victimized, angry, or hurt when people cheat on them.

  • Think about the boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife who has been cheated on.
  • Or the child whose parents are divorced because one parent cheated on the other.
  • Or the athlete who would've won had the other person or team not cheated. (We all know what happens when the officials find out: they strip the athlete of his/her medals or records).
  • Or the shareholder in a company (possibly ourselves) whose executives have lied about earnings so they could pocket more money.

It's awful being on the receiving end of cheating. Shouldn't this alone make us stop and pause and think more seriously about the consequences of cheating:

  • Do we really want to hurt others?
  • Do we really want to be God's enemy?
  • Do we really want to make enemies?

Of course not! Jesus gave us the Golden Rule for a reason. He expected us to love each other – not just small time love, but big time love. He declared: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34 ESV). Jesus gave his life for us! Are we willing to give our lives for others – and skip the cheating?

So if we're stuck in a cheating mentality, how do we change? Jesus explained:

Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (The Message, Matt 6:6)

When we feel God's grace, we are able to do things we thought were impossible before.

  • No longer will we be tempted to cheat because we feel we don't have time; God gives us the time.
  • We'll no longer have the excuse that we're not capable or smart enough; God can handle anything.

When we cheat, we're really saying that we don't value ourselves or others; we don't value God; or we feel God's grace isn't good enough to help us succeed.

Do we really not value our God-given identity? Is the prize for which we're cheating really worth throwing away ourselves, our integrity, our reputation, our relationships, our families? Isn't it more important to be who God created us to be?

It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. (The Message, John 4:23)

When we're tempted to think that cheating brings us something valuable, we can follow this good advice:

… study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing. (1 Thess 4:11,12 KJV)

It's when we're honest that we lack nothing; we have everything – because we know our God-given identity. We win the best prize: we feel our unity with Spirit.