Defeat Deceit: 7 Scriptures to Teach Kids to Be Honest


how to teach kids to be honest

The next Lizzy Life YouTube video is up: “Defeat Deceit: Teaching Children to Be Honest.” I absolutely believe parents can nip lying in the bud with young children—we can stop the habit before it ever gets started. Yep, I’m talking about three-, four- and five-year-olds! How is that possible? Check out the video where I explain the approach that’s worked with our kids. (I also address the issue for older kids—how to reset the family expectations when lying has become a problem.)

As a follow-up to the video, these seven scriptures are helpful tools in teaching kids of all ages the importance of telling the truth. With young children, we want to encourage a habit of honesty in all things. As kids mature, the emphasis moves beyond the simple “always tell the truth,” to the concept of embracing openness in our relationship—letting us in on their thoughts and feelings so we can guide them through life, and develop a truly close relationship.

1. Genesis 3:1–15

Adam and Eve disobeyed God, then they tried to hide it from him. But God came looking for them! God always knows what’s going on with us, and even when we make mistakes, he comes after us to try to make things right. Parents feel the same way about our children. All kids make mistakes and disobey. But even when kids mess up, parents want to make things right between us. We want our children to come to us and tell us what mistakes they make, rather than trying to hide from us. Even though kids might get in trouble for doing something wrong, they will get in much less trouble if they tell the truth about it! If they lie and get caught, the consequences are so much worse.

2. Exodus 20:16

Honesty is one of the Ten Commandments! From the very beginning, God has wanted his people to tell the truth.

3. Numbers 32:23

This scripture says, “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” This scripture reveals a powerful principle: God makes sure that our sin “finds us out.” That means that the truth will always come out. Somehow, God will usually make sure Mom or Dad finds out what a kid is up to. It’s so much better to tell the truth yourself, rather than get caught!

4. Genesis 18:1–15

I love the so-honest-it’s-amusing story of Sarah, who lied to the messenger of God, because she was embarrassed and afraid. This story is a great example to use with older kids when we discuss reasons we are tempted to lie. The older we get, the more easily embarrassed we get. It’s tempting to say dishonest things in order to protect our reputation or image. You can draw your child out with questions like, “What embarrasses you? What would be some situations where you might be tempted to shade the truth to make yourself look better in front of your friends?” God still wants us to tell the truth, even if it makes us look bad. God didn’t punish Sarah, but he did call attention to her deceit. He wanted her to be honest.


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5. Psalm 32 (This one’s so great that I’ll quote parts of it here, for reference.)

Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin. . . .
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.

What a great passage describing the way deceit affects us emotionally, and what it does to our relationship with God. You can use this psalm to draw out several key lessons about deception: Verse two tells us that we are blessed (happy, at peace, walking in God’s favor) when we do not have deceit our spirit (our inner self, who we really are). This is a great scripture for kids who tend to have a deceitful or sneaky nature. They’ve got to change from the inside, at a heart level.

Verses three and four remind us of how terrible we feel when we are hiding sin in our hearts—when we are lying about something that we are too afraid or too stubborn to talk about. We feel like we are “wasting away” inside: we might feel sick to our stomach, or tired, or anxious. God gives us those physical feelings as warnings, to help us see that deceit is a terrible way to live. Remind children: Even if Mom or Dad doesn’t know you are lying, God always knows, and he will do everything he can do to help you tell the truth. And if you don’t tell the truth yourself, God will usually make sure you get caught!

Verses five and six have the good news: Once we decide to stop covering up our sin, we can find forgiveness! God can forgive us, and people can forgive us. We can make things right.

Verse nine is great for appealing to stubborn kids who don’t want to give in—who keep fighting the truth, their parents, or God. This verse basically says, “Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be! Don’t make me make you do right! Don’t make me punish you, or keep a close eye on you because I don’t trust you! Why make your own life miserable?”

And verse ten has the good news: God loves us, and his unfailing love never disappoints us or leaves us alone. When we do right, God is pleased.

6. John 8:43–45

“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

This is a sobering scripture that Kevin and I have used when we need to impress upon our children how serious deceit is. Satan always lies—it’s his “native language.” He’s the one who invented lies. So when we are dishonest, we are doing exactly what the devil wants us to do. We are speaking the same language as Satan! Yikes! We want to be like Jesus, who only spoke the truth from God.

7. Acts 5:1–11

I wouldn’t use the cautionary tale of Ananias and Sapphira with a little one because it’s pretty scary, but for a mature older child, preteen, or teen who is really struggling with deceit, this story will make a memorable impression. It shows that God does not mess around with deliberate deceit. God made a dramatic point and issued an awful punishment on these two adults, who had willfully sinned not just against God, but against the entire church.

I hope these passages give you some tools you need to impress the importance of honesty onto your kids’ hearts!


If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

Teaching Kids to “Go the Extra Mile”

13 Scriptures to Help Siblings Get Along

When Your Kid Won’t Stop Whining

Keep Dancing 

13 Confidence-Building Scriptures for Kids and Teens


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