THE PRINCIPLE OF INTEGRITY

Integrity is to do with honesty – with a life and mindset free from deception. Integrity is to do with trustworthiness. As such it reflects the very nature of God: he is truth. In him there is no deception. He is not two-faced. On the other hand, when we look at the opposite of integrity, we find that it reflects the nature of the enemy, the devil, whose name is the Deceiver. He is the one whom Jesus identified as the father of lies, whose native language is lies [John 8:44].

When we choose dishonesty, when we choose deceitfulness, when we choose underhandedness, when we employ deviousness or duplicity of any kind we are rejecting God and affirming Satan, we are rebelling against the rule of God and submitting to the will of Satan. All of this is utterly inappropriate and incongruous in the children of God, and doubly incongruous in those who have committed themselves to the service of God. To claim to serve God and to choose dishonesty is a blatant contradiction.

Here are some texts that describe the integrity that God requires in his people. Each of them has implications for our lives as God's servants.

Exodus 20:15 & 16 command us not to steal and not to give false testimony about others.

Exodus 22:1-15 gives a list of case laws expanding the command not to steal, and defining the penalties for deliberate theft or damage of another's property and restitution laws applicable to both deliberate and unintentional loss or damage. Integrity demands that restitution be made if we, even by our negligence, are the cause of another person's loss.

Psalm 51:6a affirms that God 'desires truth in the inner parts': God wants us to be people of integrity, not just outward integrity that everyone sees, but integrity deep within our hearts and minds. This inner integrity, out of which observable integrity is expressed, is part of being created to image the glory and nature of God.

Proverbs 6:17, 19: conversely God hates 'a lying tongue' and 'a false witness who pours out lies'. Both are contrary to God's glorious purpose for us.

In Matthew 22:15-21 Jesus explains the integrity that is required of us in relation to government taxes.

1Corinthians 5:8 describes the integrity of heart, the sincerity, the genuineness, that should characterize our worship.

Ephesians 4:25 describes the honesty that should exist between Christians, expressing our respect for each other as fellow members of the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:28 explains the practical honesty and integrity that should characterize those who have been redeemed by Christ.

In addition to these issues of truthfulness and honesty in the day to day choices and actions of our lives, the Bible sets a standard of integrity and sincerity for particularly spiritual and/or ministry oriented choices and actions.

In Matthew 6:2-18 Jesus warned us not to engage in spiritual and pious acts simply to be seen and praised by men. He called people who do so ‘hypocrites’, which really means ‘stage actors’. By use of this term he pointed out their insincerity and lack of integrity: they are being what they actually are not. He challenges us to make sure everything that we do in his name is a genuine expression of what is in our hearts, not just something put on for outward show to impress our fellow human beings.

Paul set an example of ‘holiness and sincerity’ as he went about preaching the Gospel [2Corinthians 1:12] and did so from sincere motives, unlike some who preached for personal gain or glory [2Corinthians 2:17; Philippians 1:16-18]. This challenges every one of us to check our motives: are we engaging in our service for God in order to gain personal fame or glory? Or are we engaging in our service for God for his glory, and for his kingdom?

Paul's reminder that as Christians we are children of light is a strong incentive for us to live our lives with both inner and outward integrity:

'For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light ... Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness ..' [Ephesians 5:8,11].

Similarly Jesus' word to Nicodemus:

'Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil ... Everyone who lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God' [John 3:19,21].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016