We all know what cheating is, but sometimes the lines get fuzzy. Copying someone else’s homework and claiming it’s yours is cheating, but is it cheating to do your homework together? Is it cheating for a teacher, who knows what’s on the state exam, to teach the specifics of the exam? Is it cheating, or just bad sportsmanship, when a player specifically tries to injure the other team’s quarterback? Is it cheating not to report all of your income to the IRS? Hm?

Billy Joel’s famous song from 1979, “Honesty,” mourns, “But if you look for truthfulness, you might just as well be blind. It always seems to be so hard to give. Honesty is such a lonely word; everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard, and mostly what I need from you.” None of us likes a cheater, whether in sports, love, business, or anywhere. We all know it’s wrong, but so many of us do it at one time or another. What does the Bible say?

In Genesis 27, all four of the characters were cheaters. Isaac knew the prophecy but was trying to cheat Jacob out of the blessing. Esau had made an oath in Gn. 25.33, and was trying to cheat and break it. Rebekah knew that Isaac was planning to bless Esau, but decided to try to cheat so that he would bless Jacob. And Jacob went along with Mama’s plan to cheat his father and brother. The upshot was that Jacob still got the promised blessing, but their family was ruined. As far as we know, Jacob never saw his mother again, and Jacob and Esau were at odds with each other for years to come. Despite that God blessed him despite all the cheating, Jacob’s behavior (or any of their behavior) was never applauded or approved.

Achan, in Joshua 7, tried to cheat the system to get what he wanted. He was stoned and burned by the community at the command of God.

Jesus threw the cheating robbers out of the temple in Mk. 11.15-17 (and parallels). And when Ananias and Sapphira tried to cheat the early church leaders in Acts 5.1-11, they were struck dead by God. OK, so I guess it’s clear what the Bible teaches about cheating.

Proverbs 11.1: “The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.” Any ill-gotten profit is considered to be wrong.

Deut. 25.16: “For the Lord your God detests … anyone who deals dishonestly.”

Proverbs 10.2” “Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.”

Cheating is a form of lying, and certainly involves deceit. Since God is truth, cheating and deceit are wrong. It is said that “Cheaters Never Prosper.” We all know that isn’t true. Cheaters get away with their dishonesty a lot, and often prosper. The Bible teaches that we should be people of honesty and integrity, and that godliness is better than momentary prospering.

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