Integrity, Where has it Gone?
In the past 100 years we have seen so much advancement in the world. More knowledge is available today than ever before! In Wayne Schmidt’s book entitled, “Soul Management – Maximizing Your Spiritual Assets in a Bottom-Line World (1996)” gives us some very interesting facts:
➢ 50% of all the scientists who ever lived are alive today.
➢ 50% of all the discoveries in natural science were made in the last century.
➢ 50% of all the books ever written were written in the last 50 years.
➢ 50% of the knowledge known by medical doctors was unknown just 20 years ago and 90% of all that is known by medical doctors was unknown 70 years ago.
➢ The prophets of this information age believe it has only begun. Some estimate we now have available to us less than 20% of what will be available by 2010.
Many things in our world have changed over the years: our lives, fashions, customs and technology, etc. Although we have progressed greatly over the years, change has erased some of mankind’s better qualities. Our so called progress has caused many good practices and life principles to disappear. Integrity, where has it gone?
The event of the year was the high school play in a sleepy, West Texas town. Unfortunately, the young man playing the lead role was not a good actor and should not have had this part in the play. At the climax of the scene, the hero was to go down on his knees before this beautiful young lady and propose to her. At that moment the window was to go up, her former boyfriend was to fire the gun, and the lead man was to leap to his feet frantically and shout, “Good heavens, I’m shot!” it looked plain and simple on the page, and that’s just about the way he would say it. The poor kid would deliver the line in a complete monotone. They coached and drilled him, but the kid had no acting skills at all. He just could not identify with the part.
The night of the high school play, as the drama coach was going out the front door of his house, he noticed his son’s air rifle in the corner. And he got an idea. Sure enough, at the critical point, with the hero down on his knees before the beautiful young lady, the window going up, and her former boyfriend firing his gun, that coach, with split-second timing and accuracy, pulled the trigger of the air rifle off stage, nicking the kid’s trousers. The kid stole the show, leaping to his feet and crying, “Good heavens! I AM SHOT!”
The need of the hour is much the same as that of the young actor, a need for authenticity; a need to be real! Credible and trustworthy leaders are fast becoming an endangered species. The screaming need is for leaders who keep their word. We need leaders in our homes. Families are unraveling (falling apart) like cheap sweaters. Marriages are exploding and ending! We need leaders in our churches!
The greatest crisis today is a crisis of leadership, and the greatest danger of leadership is a crisis of character.
Think about it, to give a person management techniques and leadership skills without integrity is simply to give him the power to become a better con (rip-off) artist.
Peter Kamm and James Patterson did an extensive study of all fifty states in America. They included younger people, older people, men and women, people of all races and economic backgrounds. And they discovered a disturbing truth. Only 13% of Americans consider all Ten Commandments as binding and relevant. Most Americans lie regularly to their families, to their friends, and to their associates (people they work with). Americans admit goofing off at work an average of seven hours a week. One half of their work force regularly calls in sick, though they admit they feel perfectly well.
Here’s what disturbed me the most! When asked, “What are you willing to do for $10 million?”
➢ 25% of those surveyed said they would leave their families.
➢ 23% said they would engage in prostitution for a week.
➢ 7% said they would commit murder!
It would be nice to say, “Yes, this is sad but those figures (statistics) represent the thinking and lifestyle of pagans. Those who are non-Christians.” WRONG! Doug Sherman, together with Bill Hendricks, wrote a book entitled “Keeping Your Ethical Edge Sharp.” Their conclusion was that Christians are as likely as non-Christians to falsify tax returns, to bribe someone in order to obtain a building permit, to ignore construction guidelines (specs), to shift the blame for wrongdoing onto someone else, or to steal from the workplace. God HELP us!
There is the story of a man who left the factory every day with a pile of sand in his wheelbarrow. The guards went through the pile, convinced they would find stolen property but they could find nothing, everyday, same thing. Finally they realized he was stealing wheelbarrows. We have come to a place where people choose what laws they will obey, doing whatever is most convenient and best for them, bending and breaking the laws. As a born-again Christian, that ought to do something to you.
It is quite clear to any thinking individual that the greatest need of our times is the need for integrity. It’s not optional; it’s an urgent requirement! We need a strong group of men and women of whom it can be said, “What you see is what you get.” Men of their word: What they say is what they do. They are who they are, no matter where they are or who they are with. Today, I want to ask you three questions: (1) What does it take to be a man of integrity? (2) What does integrity look like? (3) What does integrity produce?
1.) What does it take to be a man of integrity?
Webster’s dictionary states that INTEGRITY is:
➢ The quality or state of being complete; wholeness
➢ The quality of or state of being unimpaired; perfect condition; soundness
➢ The quality or state of being of sound moral principles; uprightness
A man of integrity has nothing to hide. He has nothing to fear. He has nothing to prove. And he has nothing to lose except his wholeness and honesty.
Let’s look and see what Scripture has to say about this kind of a man or a woman? Consider some selected passages that I believe clearly show us that God is concerned with character more than He is with credentials. God told Solomon, “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.” [1Kings 9:4-5]
Job, when answering one of his so called counselor friends, said in verse 5 of chapter 27: “God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”
David invited God in Psalm 7:8 to: “…judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.”
Several proverbs highlight and reveal the same truth.
➢ “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” [Proverbs 10:9]
➢ “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” [Proverbs 11:3]
➢ “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” [Proverbs 20:7]
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “If my life was thoroughly investigated, would I be embarrassed by what they discovered?” What would be revealed if God set up a big screen that would display our lives… our integrity? A man of integrity has nothing to fear. Because of the consistency in his life, examinations do not embarrass him. A person of integrity has the desire to live an honest, complete life that avoids deception and is sincere in thought, word and deed.
2.) What does integrity look like?
I believe integrity is best defined and illustrated in a person’s life through what others see, hear, and feel in the heartbeat of a lifestyle. Two good examples from Scripture are Joseph and Daniel, a younger man and an older man, both of whom were men of integrity.
Joseph, was a model of trust. Genesis 37 tells how Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was taken to Egypt where, like cream, he rose to the top. The reason: Three times in chapter 39 you will read, “The Lord was with Joseph.” The Lord gave him success in everything he did.
In fact, Genesis 39:4 says: “And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.” Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s eyes and became his right-hand man. This captain of Pharaoh’s guard put Joseph in charge of his household and entrusted everything he owned to his care because he saw that the blessing of the Lord was on everything he had mainly as a result of Joseph’s integrity.
Your character and integrity will be TESTED! Beginning with Genesis 39:6 we read,
“So he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. And Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 “There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (NKJ)
➢ Reputation deals with men’s perception of you.
➢ Integrity deals with God’s perception of you.
Here was a man who had such team commitment that he wouldn’t let his boss down in a crisis. We need to remind ourselves that Joseph was probably in his late teen and would have been tempted to sleep with his master’s wife. However, Joseph had made a commitment, and he would not break his commitment.
Ministerial students, remember, when you enter the ministry you make a commitment to work for God’s kingdom. There will not be people around to watch and see if you really put in a full days work or just play around half the day. If you’re a person of integrity, there are no worries because you’re honest, sincere and complete.
There is a second reason Joseph remained pure. Not only was he a man of commitment, he was also a man of character. CHARACTER: defines who you are. It is a quality that can be observed by others from your actions and reactions. Joseph asked Potiphar’s wife, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” He had conviction … commitment … character.
God helps us as ministerial students to have strong Bible convictions, commitment to His kingdom, the church, and character that will not allow us to talk negatively about our brothers or sisters. We’re a team. We’re one. We are the body of Christ!
Conviction, commitment and character are the same things that will protect us from the real temptations we face every single day of our lives. The essence of leadership is trust. If people trust you, they will follow you. If no one is following you, as E. V Hill has said on a number of occasions, then, man, you’re just out taking a walk. Here was Joseph, willing to risk his freedom so that he would not compromise his conviction. Moral purity is not something you hope to have, it’s something you choose to have. Joseph was a man who could be trusted, he was a man of integrity!
The second man I want to look at is Daniel, and his story is found in the book named after him. You may need to remind yourself that Daniel rose to the top of three administrations (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius).
King Darius, the Persian monarch, had an interesting pyramid in his organization. Darius was at the top, followed by three presidents (administrators), a hundred and twenty princes (satraps), and then all of the people below. Daniel 6 tells us that Daniel began distinguishing himself among the presidents and princes because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. He was going to be second in command. So the jealous presidents and princes did a little sneaky investigation.
Their conclusion was: They could find no grounds for accusation, no evidence of corruption, impropriety, or negligence because Daniel was competent, loyal, and totally clean. He was a man of integrity. They concluded, “We’re not going to find anything against him. What we’ve got to do is examine his godly lifestyle.” They came up with a plan to suggest to the king: “Let’s issue a policy that for thirty days anyone who makes a petition to any man besides you, 0 king, shall be cast into the den of lions.” And the king thought, “That’s a pretty good idea.” So they passed it, and as part of the law of the Medes and the Persians, once it was passed, it could not be changed, even by royal decree. Then the king discovered he had been tricked. The man he thoroughly trusted, the one he wanted to put second in command, was now the one to be cast into the den of lions.
Daniel was a man who at the latter end of his life had not lost his sense of purpose. He was an honest man, a man of integrity, not because it was convenient, not because it had a cheap price tag, but because that was his conviction. When you see a person who is honest with God, who is honest with other people, and most of all, who is honest with himself, you see a man of integrity. Honesty is the act of obeying truth, and truth is always a return to reality.
➢ Colossians 3:23-24 says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
➢ Colossians 3:17 states, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
Daniel realized who he was serving and it made him what he was. God has called us to be more than a witness, He has called us to be His representatives of integrity.
3.) What does integrity produce?
Dr. Chuck Swindoll gives five answers.
First, it produces the sustained cultivation of character. Integrity is long obedience in the same direction. Living in the midst of a society that cannot tell the difference between good and evil, we need to cultivate reliable character. It produces a character that will last.
Second, integrity offers the continual relief of a clear conscience. You can go to bed every night with a totally free and relaxed conscience.
Third, consider the personal delight of intimacy with God. Living a life of integrity will allow you to live a life free from guilt and sin because when you do something wrong your integrity will tell you, Hey! You need to repent of that and make things right immediately. There is no greater privilege than walking day by day with the Lord Jesus Christ.
There’s a fourth value, and that’s the priceless gift of a lingering legacy. What will you be remembered for? Not for what you think. I used to believe people would remember my messages. Most don’t. In fact, neither do I! They will remember you more for who you are not what you said. People will remember how you lived quicker than they will remember what you did. What they will remember is your lifestyle of integrity.
There is a fifth and final benefit from integrity, and that is the crowning reward of ending well, with no regrets. May I remind you that over half of the people who failed in the Bible failed in the last half of their lives (Sampson, Saul, Solomon). I want to go to heaven without embarrassment. I want to go home to meet God, realizing that I gave it my best shot and that I used the incredible resources God had provided for me.
by Nick Sisco