In our nation, and sadly in local churches, there has been a falling away, a breakdown, and compromise of integrity. In 2008, we learned the boom of the 1990’s was built on the foundation devoid of integrity. But compromise is not limited to CEO’s who greedily sell out their employees or to pork-happy politicians. Today scandal after scandal is in our face. Political leaders, of both parties, serve out of their best interests, not our nation’s. All too often we find moral laxity in our pews, in the pulpit, and, even among elders. Paul’s admonition to Timothy is true, “Things are growing worse and worse”(2Tim. 3:1-5). Too often, men who are to be leaders eat the sheep instead of feeding them. Too often, the culture and character of the world describe God’s people rather than us being described as Christ-like. Would it be accurate to call one pretending to be a Christian a Corinthian even today?
Let me define what I mean by integrity. Webster’s tells us integrity means: “an unimpaired condition.” It means to be sound. The Hebrew word for integrity, tom, also means to be complete or solid. Integrity is completeness or soundness. You have integrity when you complete a job, even when no one is looking. You have integrity if you keep your word, even when no one checks up on you. You have integrity if you keep your promises. Integrity means the absence of duplicity and is the opposite of hypocrisy. If you are a person of integrity you will do what you say. What you declare, you will do your best to be. Integrity also includes financial accountability, personal reliability, and private purity. A person with integrity does not manipulate others. He or she is not prone to arrogance or self- praise. Integrity even invites constructive and necessary criticism because it applauds accountability. It is sound. It is solid. It is complete.
Integrity is rock-like. It won’t crack when it has to stand alone, and it won’t crumble when the pressure mounts. Integrity keeps one from fearing the white light of examination or resisting the exacting demand of close scrutiny. It’s honesty at all cost. Let’s put flesh on these bones and make them live; integrity describes Joseph, Mary, the mother of Jesus, Paul, Timothy and Jesus Christ.
One said of integrity, “There is a certain blend of courage, integrity, character and principle which has no satisfactory dictionary name but has been called different things at different times in different countries. Our American name for it is guts.”
I like that. Integrity is having the guts to tell the truth, even if it may hurt to do so: like John before Diotrophes, like Paul before Peter in Antioch. Integrity is having the guts to be honest, even though cheating may bring a better grade.
But there are some things integrity is not. It is not sinless perfection. A person with integrity does not have to live absolutely free of sin. No one does. But one with integrity quickly acknowledges his failures and doesn’t hide the wrong.
Integrity is essential in the church, in the market place and in the home. When you walk with integrity, you leave it as a legacy for your children to follow (Prov. 20:7). It is what I call the father’s thumbprint. Blessed are you if you had a father with integrity and a mother with guts.
When you work with integrity, you honor the Lord. Regardless of your profession, your character and conduct are methods of service. Over 50 years ago Elton Trueblood wrote, “It is hard to think of any job in which the moral element is lacking. The skill of the dentist is wholly irrelevant if he is unprincipled and irresponsible. There is little, in that case, to keep him from exacting teeth unnecessarily, because the patient is usually in a helpless situation. It is easy to see the harm that can be done by an unprincipled lawyer. Indeed, such a man is far more dangerous if he is skilled than if he is not skilled.”
Do you put wire in the walls? Do you repair cars? Do you work with numbers? Do you sell clothes? Perhaps you practice law or medicine? The important thing is not what work you do, but whether or not you do your work with integrity. Perhaps you labor behind the scenes, and your only thanks is the inner satisfaction of a job done right. Do you cheat on your exams? Are you cheating on your mate? Some have the audacity to do such things and call themselves Christians! No wonder the world is confused.
By Rickie Jenkins
Recommended reading: Eisenhower, Soldier and President by Stephen Ambrose