It is uncanny how God’s revelation appears, always so timely and appropriate. This is why I keep insisting that Scripture comes to life in all of our everyday experiences. We can see it if we’re looking for it.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the word and concept of integrity. This word that has been central in my life and work for many years.
I believe it is often the missing component in our induvial lives, in the church, and in the culture at large. Lack of integrity can absolutely cripple our effectiveness as ambassadors for Christ.
Obviously there are evildoers in this world who spend much time and effort trying to steal from and destroy whomever they can. They reveal the opposite of integrity.
But there is also a tension within believers, and within the body of Christ, between the flesh and the Spirit, the spiritual and the carnal. This also reveals a lack of integrity.
So, come with me as we look at this beautiful word and idea.
Integrity would make my top-ten list of favorite words in the English language. It’s a word that is drenched with meanings that can help us on our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ.
I’ll share dictionary definitions to help us along. But more importantly, we’ll explore how the Bible illustrates this aspect of character and identity.
The first definition Merriam Webster provides is the one that we probably think of first when we hear the word integrity. It is an “adherence to a code” of morality and possessing a character that is “incorruptible.”1
People of integrity are morally and ethically upright. Biblically, people of integrity walk in the fear of the Lord, can be trusted with God’s assignments, and are impeccably honest and honorable.
Scripture attributes this priceless character trait to Job, David, Nehemiah, and Paul. They were humans, and no human has perfect integrity. But when they failed to measure up to God’s standards, they admitted their faults and were restored to moral integrity.
When Job’s life was utterly ruined, the only thing that remained was his integrity. His wife railed at him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). To paraphrase, Job answers, “Nope, not going to do it. I accept all things that the Lord allows, and I will not change my commitment to his righteousness even in my devastation.”
Some alternate biblical translations of the concept integrity corresponding with this first meaning are clear conscience, clean hands, pure intentions, acting innocently. They describe purity of heart, holiness, and righteousness. Jesus declared in the Beatitudes that such people are “pure in heart” and that they will “see God” (Matt. 5:7b)
The second dictionary definition points to structural soundness or having “an unimpaired condition.”1 Integrity is a term used in the engineering field. A quality building must have structural integrity. It must be built on a sound foundation and erected in such a way that it won’t be knocked down by the first strong storm that blows through.
Sound familiar? Jesus says that those who come to him, listen to his words, and follow them, are like builders who build upon rock and not sand.2
Whether sincere, or merely using flattery to advance their own crooked agenda, the disciples of the Pharisees and Herodians said to Jesus,
“Teacher…we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others because you pay no attention to who they are” (Matt. 22:16).
These questioners correctly affirmed that Jesus wasn’t like other teachers they’d met—his words were sturdy, authoritative, grounded in truth, and not swayed by the arguments of men. His were sound words because everything about Jesus was sound and good. Jesus himself declared that his words would persist throughout eternity! (Matt. 5:18).
This reminds me of Chief Ten Bears in The Outlaw Josey Wales, who recognized integrity in Josey when they met on the prairie to negotiate a peaceful sharing of the land:
“It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carry the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life.”3
Do we have iron in our words of life and death? Will our way of life stand up in the face of pressure and temptation? This is one of the measures of integrity in our hearts.
The third definition denotes simplicity, wholeness, and completeness; it is “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.”1
This definition is especially true of our God. A.W. Tozer wrote,
“God is simple, uncomplex, one with Himself. The harmony of His being is the result not of a perfect balance of parts but the absence of parts. Between his attributes no contradiction can exist.”4
God is whole and indivisible, and God designed his creatures to be whole also, as his image bearers. Because of the entrance of sin, human beings lost their integrity and became broken and in conflict with God and themselves.
Thankfully, there is a way to regain our integrity. When we accept the gospel truth about Jesus Christ as our risen Messiah, Savior, and returning King of Kings, we are not only rescued from hell after we die. We are made whole while still on earth because his Spirit comes to live within.
Body, soul, and spirit can come into harmony and agreement. Paul confirms this when he writes, “You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:10, NKJV).
We are made complete in him.
But we need to walk this out, to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). There begins a process wherein God heals our broken places and draws us closer to him day by day as we worship and obey him. The work he begins he will complete (Phil. 1:6).
The result is wholeness. Integrity within that pleases God and keeps us in sweet fellowship with him.
David spoke of this, as he confessed his sins to Yahweh:
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom….
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps.51:6, 10, NKJV)
Because God answered David’s prayer and restored him, the Lord later informs his son Solomon,
“Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever” (1 Kings 9:4-5, NKJV, emphasis added).
Do we truly desire this kind of character and life?
We now see that Scripture shows us three aspects of integrity that are worth seeking.
We are to seek to be scrupulously ethical in our treatment of others and adhere to the Scripture’s very high standard for moral conduct. We are to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly” with God (Micah 6:8). We are to remain on the narrow path Jesus has paved for us.
We are to build our lives on the solid rock of the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. This will give us the structural integrity we need to withstand the many storms of life that may come.
And finally, we rejoice in the truth that God made a way for us to be restored to complete wholeness, through our salvation and through our sanctification. He is working to perfect what he has begun!
2 See my more detailed study of this parable at https://scripturecomesto.life/2020/05/20/come-listen-follow/
3 Clint Eastwood, Jerry Fielding, and Lennie Niehaus. THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES. USA, 1976.
4 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1978.