Integrity, Part 2
Job had a lifelong mission: “Till I die, I will not put away mine integrity from me.” (Job 27:6 ESV).
“I Will Not Remove My Integrity”
Job had a lifelong mission: “Till I die, I will not put away mine integrity from me.” (Job 27:6 ESV). His whole life he devoted himself to being a man of integrity, and this helped save the lives of himself and his friends. For this reason, God urges us to “consider my servant Job.” (Job 2:3). He wants us to develop and retain this same integrity.
In last month’s article, we explored the meaning of the word integrity and six of its key ingredients, as defined and illustrated by God in His Word: Knowledge, Conviction, Behavior, Consistency, Innocence and Character. These ingredients also anchor our English definition of integrity. This month we will reflect on their practical life application.
What behaviors are integral to integrity? David illuminates several in Psalm 101 where he declares “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” (Psa 101:2). This word “perfect” is the Hebrew word tome and is often translated as “integrity.” It is the very same word used to describe the “integrity” of Job (Job 2:3, 2:9, 27:5).1 Thus, David paralleled his life mission with Job’s: it was his deepest desire to be a solid example of godly integrity, especially within his own house.
How did David do this? Verse seven gives us a clue when he asserts “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” Verse four expands on these problems: “A froward heart shall depart from me, I will not know a wicked person.” The word “froward” means “false, crooked, twisted or distorted” (Strong’s). David underscores a fundamental behavior of integrity: honesty and truthfulness. Integrity is incongruous with dishonesty. It was undesirable to David to have anyone live or serve in his house who would be dishonest, untrustworthy, or a liar. He knew that this behavior, in whatever form, was completely contrary to God’s commands (Lev 19:11).
David encourages us to develop honesty and truthfulness as the very core of our being. We live in a world full of lies, manipulation, slander and deceit. God is appealing to us, through the example of David, to distance ourselves from this caustic behavior and to reflect on the depth of our integrity. Are we truthful, honest, non-manipulative, and transparent with others? Have we ever participated as a false witness against an enemy, or a brother or sister? Do we associate with, or even aid and abet others who do not tell the truth? David was not willing to practice these behaviors in his own life, and just importantly, was unwilling to associate with those who practiced them: “I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.” (Psa 101:3).
If we do not tell the truth, life becomes a crooked and corrosive environment for ourselves and others.
It does not save lives but only serves to tear the very fabric of our relations with others and our God. Mark Twain allegedly observed “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”2 Honesty makes life much simpler, less stressful, and much more enjoyable.
What Do We Do When No One Is Watching?
This is a question worthy of self-reflection! David prompts us to think about this in verse one: “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” What we actively choose to put in front of our eyes, is part of integrity.
More importantly, what do we set in front of our eyes when we feel no one is watching? Whether in daily life, on the computer or Netflix. It is easy to avoid material that is violent or immoral when others are aware, but much more difficult when we are alone or do not feel others are aware. What are we watching? What are our kids viewing or playing? What do we ignore or gloss over because “It was still a great movie,” “I already hear that at work every day,” or “It’s just a video game?” Godly integrity is an internal compass or a steady rudder that directs us when everything around us pulls us in a different direction, especially when we are alone.
David also addresses secret slander in verse five: “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy.” Slander is making false and damaging statements about someone else. It is akin to the gangrene of lies. It spreads and destroys the trust of neighbors. It undermines friendships and relations. How can our relations be a refuge, or even a unique example, if we act the same as the world around us and permit damaging rumors to propagate like the waves of a storm? Particularly if it is done “secretly,” or behind someone’s back. David treated this behavior seriously and was willing to remove anyone from his courts that was cowardly enough to be destroying someone else’s character.
Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. This includes how we behave at work, at home, at school, in AB meetings, at Sisters Class, at CYC and on social media such as Snapchat and Facebook. It means we avoid bribes, file truthful taxes and do not steal.
If we must hide what we are doing, we may be behaving without integrity and in a way that we know is wrong and against our convictions. If we only practice integrity when we know someone else is aware, this is hardly the ingredient of consistency we observe in the life of David or Job. If we are acting just to please someone else, or to keep up an image, our character is deceptive and false. The ultimate judge of integrity is God, and we must remind ourselves regularly that He can see all things.
Consistency Means Inside and Outside
Our English word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning “whole, undivided, sound, or complete.” In math, an integer is a whole number with no decimal or fractional part (e.g., 1 or 44, not 0.79 or 341/8). Therefore, integrity is not part or part-time. Integrity is fully, wholly and all the time. Today, we might also use the word consistent, which is one of the ingredients of integrity we identified earlier.
This same lesson of wholeness and consistency was taught by God to Israel using an object lesson. Throughout the Old Testament, He instructed them to offer sacrifices that were “without blemish.” (e.g., Exod 12:5; Lev 1:10). This phrase is stressed over ninety times and is almost always the same Hebrew word tawmeem that we find translated as “perfect” in Psalm 101:2. In other words, God wanted the children of Israel to offer sacrifices that had integrity. When the priest inspected them, they were to be whole and complete. Not damaged, without disease, and unblemished. A perfect, whole sacrifice.
More importantly, the sacrifice held a personal and practical lesson. It represented the person who offered the sacrifice and was meant to impress on the person that God wanted them to offer their lives as sacrifices with integrity. Likewise, our Father wants our lives to be living sacrifices (Rom 12:1) that are consistent, complete, and whole, just like those approved by the priest. Consistency means inside and outside.
Consistency was an important ingredient of David’s integrity. He strove to have integrity every day, in every circumstance, with every person, wholly, completely, and always. It was not a part-time exercise. It was a full-time commitment in his life, as it must be in ours.
David also strove to have integrity inside and outside: his thoughts matched his actions. An apple is not an apple just because the sign at the grocery store says, “Apples for Sale.” It may look like an apple, smell like an apple, and feel like an apple. But if it does not taste and have the texture of an apple, it is not an apple. The inside is just as important as the outside! They must agree or we would have nothing to do with them. Likewise with integrity. Our inside needs to be consistent with our outside and vice versa. Our behavior must match our inner thoughts. And our words must match our actions.
Conviction Invites Challenge
Even if we live life with integrity, we will face situations that severely challenge our convictions. Jesus leaves no doubt when he warns “you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” This may mean others treat us poorly, humiliate, take advantage of, or even physically and mentally abuse us. However, if we hold fast to our convictions, and do not give up, Jesus also assures us “He who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt 10:22).
Many Bible characters endured severe challenges, held fast to their integrity, and in the end, helped save the lives of themselves and others. Noah is an inspiring example. God saved eight people because of his faithfulness and conviction. Do you recall how God describes him? In Genesis, we read “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations.” (Gen 6:9). The word “perfect” is once again tawmeem. When our integrity is thrust into the fire, do we match the conviction of Noah?
During the darkest days of Job’s life, his wife challenged him to abandon his integrity: “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9). But Job refused to crack and would not let go of his integrity (Job 27:5-6). Although it was tempting, Job refused to speak lies or act deceitfully (Job 27:4). He would not give up striving to act righteously (Job 27:6) and was not willing to behave like a hypocrite (Job 27:8) or invest in the “the portion of the wicked man and the heritage of oppressors.” (Job 27:13). Instead, he placed his life into the hands of God and trusted that, because of his integrity, God would judge him righteously: “Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.” (Job 31:6). This gives us hope that our Father will also judge us justly if we stick to our convictions.
Like Job, David also held fast to his convictions during challenges, despite making some serious mistakes. In Psalm 26, David communicates his assurance that God could see and would reward him for this conviction: “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide.” (Psa 26:1). In the following verses, he continues: “But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me and be merciful unto me.” (Psa 26:11). David recognized he had failed miserably at times. But these verses show he continued to trust that God could still redeem him and be merciful to him. These assurances were like snow tires in a blizzard. They prevented him from “sliding” or giving up. The development of David’s integrity was a process, as it is with us. If our conviction loses traction at times, God assures us that He is still with us and will help us, despite slips and falls.
The integrity of others, when mixed with God’s mercy, can also help us avert costly personal mistakes. We witness this in the life of Abimelech. In Genesis 20 he explains how he took Sarah into his house: “In the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.” (Gen 20:5). Note how Abimelech’s integrity included one of the key ingredients: innocence. And his integrity saved him and the lineage of Abraham and Sarah from certain disaster.
Did you know that the High Priest’s clothing contains a lesson in integrity? Embedded in the square breastplate worn over his chest were four rows of three gemstones inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. It also contained two additional stones: “the Urim and the Thummim.” (Exod 28:30).
It is fascinating that the word “Thummim” is the plural of the Hebrew word tome which is translated as “integrity” throughout the Old Testament.1 Thus, Thummim could be translated as “integrities” or “perfections.” God does not provide us with all the details of the form or use of the stones. But through them, God did guide the High Priest to determine whether someone had integrity (Thummim), and was therefore innocent, or they had a lack of integrity (Urim) and were therefore guilty.
The practical message of the Thummim is clear. God expected the High Priest, as His spiritual leader and representative, to act with the highest of Thummim or integrity. He also expected the Israelites to develop and practically apply integrity in all aspects of their lives. The Thummim and unblemished sacrifices reminded them of this principle when they met with the High Priest.
Furthermore, in wearing the breastplate with Urim and Thummim, Aaron was to “bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually.” (Exod 28:30). The High Priest wore the Thummim over the heart, all the time. Surely this was a constant reminder that Israel was to daily clothe their own hearts and minds with integrity. It was to be part of their inner characters and would help them judge right from wrong.
Do we wear integrity over our hearts each day? And is it consistently part of our inner heart, mind, and character?
God describes Abimelech’s integrity as being “of thy heart” (Gen 20:5) and, similarly, David’s as being “the integrity of his heart” (Psa 78:70-72), or “a perfect heart.” (Psa 101:2).
Finally, the Thummim reminds us of our own High Priest who made integrity a matter of his heart. The Lord Jesus Christ mirrored the perfect integrity of his Father and “pledged his heart to approach Me [God].” (Jer 30:21 NKJV). His knowledge, conviction, behavior, consistency, innocence and character all spoke of integrity, and he followed that conviction to the cross. By his integrity, and God’s mercy, he has provided a means to save the lives of many “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Pet 1:18-19). May God give us strength and endurance to fortify our hearts with the same integrity of Job, David, Christ, and many others as we await his soon appearance.
Cambridge Ecclesia, ON