Integrity is something that is so often missing in our world today. In the last few years it has become so common to witness the public fall of celebrities and politicians that we are no longer shocked by it. If fact, we are usually shocked if it doesn’t happen. One only has to look at the current headlines to see some celebrity, well known Christian or politician being forced to deal with the consequences of issues they worked really hard to keep secret.
We would all recognize that these sorts of incidents are not limited to those who live in the public eye. Chances are most of us can think of ‘regular’ people that we know that have gone through things like this as well. The only difference is that they weren’t famous and so what they did wasn’t covered on the evening news. When you look at these events and the people involved in them and boil the problem down what you find is that there is a basic lack of integrity among those involved.
When we talk about integrity it’s important to understand that integrity is not a synonym for perfection. In my mind the best way to understand integrity is to understand it as being who you say you are. In a lot of ways integrity is the opposite of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is to intentionally pretend to be something you aren’t.
As you read the Gospels you find that Jesus had no patience for hypocrites. Jesus consistently dealt more harshly with the hypocritical, self-righteous religious leaders than He did with prostitutes and tax collectors, which were considered to be the worst sinners of all. Jesus had no desire for people to appear to be anything. He wanted people to genuinely be something.
I’ve heard it said a lot of times that in one way or another we are all hypocrites. The reason for this is because in one way or another we all fail to live up to values we profess to hold. Personally I disagree with this statement. The reason I disagree is because a hypocrite wasn’t someone who tried and failed. A hypocrite was one who didn’t try at all. A hypocrite is only concerned about appearing, not about being. If you are more concerned about how you appear than what you really are, then you may well be a hypocrite. On the other hand, if you are genuinely more concerned about what you are than how you appear, but you just fail to live up to it sometimes, then you probably are NOT a hypocrite.
Hypocrisy isn’t trying to live for Jesus but failing. Hypocrisy is not really trying to live for Jesus but wanting people to think that you are. It is putting on a show for people so they will think one thing about you while the truth is actually something else.
Integrity on the other hand is being who you say you are. It is being the same in public as you are in private. It is being the same at home as you are on the job. It is being the same when are surrounded by people you know as you are when you are on vacation surrounded by people you don’t know. The Bible tells us there is security in integrity.
“He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known.” Proverbs 10:9 (NKJV)
It will eventually come to light if who I claim to be isn’t really who I am. Obviously being men and women of integrity is very important. If we want to be men and women of integrity what we must do is strive to ensure that our attitudes and actions are consistent with our values. It’s not that we don’t fail to live up to our values sometimes. It’s that we are truly striving, laboring, and being careful to ensure that our attitudes and actions are consistent with our values.
Our integrity is based upon our personal relationship with God. All our efforts to be moral are fruitless because being moral isn’t our goal. Instead, our goal is to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. When that is our goal then morality and integrity will be the inevitable result. This week I’m going to focus my writing on what we can do to ensure we are men and women of integrity.
For further study read Matthew 23:16-28.
What did Jesus say about the importance of honesty in our speech?
What did Jesus say about the attitudes behind our actions?
What did Jesus say about appearing to be something without actually being that thing?