Am I A Person Of Integrity?
By G. Raymond Carlson
In our speeded-up society, there must be a time for stopping to restate principles and the priorities for which our calling makes us responsible.
Regardless of our place in the work of God’s kingdom, we need to determine our priorities if we are to perform responsibly. Priorities must be based on the will of God. Unless we do God’s will, all our efforts are fruitless. Doctrine is worthless if it does not change our lives. Review the Pauline epistles. In the early part of each epistle the apostle lifts us to great doctrinal heights. Truth is richly expounded. But then each letter concludes with sound admonition as to how we are to live. We are to not only believe the gospel, but we must also behave the gospel.
Everyone has seen the classic ambitious person. He succeeds by any means, disregarding those he hurts in his climb. He is pleasant to those he hurts in his climb. He is pleasant to those who benefit his purpose and indifferent, even harsh, to those who don’t. His goals are position, money and power.
He strives to be president of the company or foreman of the factory. He tries to control the committee. She is the wife pushing her husband. He is the father trying to manipulate his children.
Is ambition wrong? Too much ambition leads to self-promotion; too little to do — nothingness. The dilemma is to find the balance.
Ambition is amoral. It is part of our nature, like hunger, desire, or love. But hunger can lead to gluttony, desire can become craving, love can become lust. Motives and goals will determine the right or the wrong use of ambition.
Wrong motives lead to unhealthy ambition. Ambition focused on ego has no place in God’s economy. Self-serving and self-centered ambition brings no glory to God. The prophet Jeremiah states it clearly: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (Jeremiah 45:5).
The world grasps for power for personal benefit. But the Bible states, “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:28). To clutch power and to let it become a driving force is not Christlike. Neither is it Christian to manipulate and control others. We are to lead by influence and example, not by control.
There is a desperate need for righteousness in today’s world. Scandals in government, in big business, in sports, even in the church, are by far too prevalent. The loss of values and the weakening of standards are of grave concern. The president of Harvard University noted that “people everywhere worry about our ethical standards.” The concern relates to our national character.
A serious character problem exists at all levels of American society. The sleaze factor raises its ugly head everywhere. We are facing an integrity crisis, even in the church.
We must remember and never forget that the Ten Commandments are not ten suggestions. Ted Koppel reminds us that, “in its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not Ten Suggestions.”
When our Lord laid down the rules, He knew how easy it would be to qualify our commitments: “I’ll pay you next. …” “I’ll do that when. …” “I’ll come, if. …”
Pastors, above all others, need to practice integrity and accountability. Integrity means “an uncompromising adherence to a code of moral values; utter sincerity, honesty, and candor.” Integrity allows for no deception, artificiality, expediency, and lack of principle.
Pastors must have uncompromising moral values. The more we do what is right, the easier it becomes. Proverbs lists the value of integrity as a cornerstone of character. “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (10:9). Job held “fast his integrity” (2:3) despite his sore trials and prayed that God would know his integrity (31:6). David walked in his integrity (Psalm 25:21; 26:1).
We can never escape the importance of integrity of character. (See Proverbs 11:3; 19:1; 20:7.) It is noteworthy that the initial qualification for the first deacons was “men of honest report” (Acts 6:3). They were to be men filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, but prefacing those qualifications was “men of honest report.”
Jesus, with great clarity, taught that integrity involves the whole of the inner person: the heart, the mind and the will. (Matthew 6:19-24). The Christian who has integrity lives with singleness of heart, singleness of mind, and singleness of will. He does not try to love both God and the world. (See 1 John 2:15.) The eye must be a “single-one” in outlook, not two, on life. To have two masters in life creates darkness within. See 1 John 1:5-8. Moral decay starts with a double heart that fosters a double mind and a divided will.
Cover-up, not failure, destroys integrity. The decisions one makes in private determine character. To compromise, to cheat, to do shoddy work when you think no one can see or knows it results in loss of integrity.
Billy Graham has been consistently honored as a most honorable and respected person. His life has been marked by sexual purity, financial accountability, and honesty. Early on, following his choice to be a Christian, he chose to become a person of integrity.
Pastor, you and I must choose to be people of integrity. The choice rests with us. The ability to practice it comes through the work of the Holy Spirit as He applies the power of the Word of God and meets us at our altars of prayer.