The problem with integrity

Here’s hoping that headline caught your attention. It should.


If you probably talk to almost anyone about the idea of “integrity” in business or government today, you’ll probably get some giggles or harrumphs or just outright laughter.


“The fix is in” and we all know it, they’ll say. Integrity doesn’t really exist anymore. Everyone is out for themselves.


Sound harsh? With all of the arguments over masks and vaccines and what the government can order you to do right now, it’s pretty understandable.


Ask any school board member at ANY school right now – and remember that they don’t get paid a dime to be a school board member. Most would prefer to be anywhere else at this point. All because of local folks who think integrity has gone out the window.


Now this isn’t support for or against folks arguing over masks and vaccines. It’s more about perceptions that people have about others – and what IS integrity anyway?


This is usually when we go to the old dictionary for a definition, so why not?


From the ever popular Wikipedia – “Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.”


That doesn’t sound like a seemingly growing list of scandals that make the news almost every day…


It’s amazing – do a web search for “scandals” and you’ll find dedicated pages on a number of news websites that are just about SCANDALS. The whole long page, one after another, from politicians to business moguls to even ordinary folks trying to pull a fast one on others.


So maybe that’s the “problem” with integrity – we can’t seem to find much of it in trying times like these when we really NEED to rediscover it.


Is this a new problem? Of course not. You can go all the way back to the Old Testament to find plenty of examples of testing the limits of integrity.


Remember Jacob and Esau? They were two brothers and the sons of Isaac. The two were fraternal twins, sons of their mother Rebecca, but Esau came out first even though Jacob did his best to change that…


When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. – Genesis 25:24-26 NIV


Being the oldest, even by a few seconds, means you have first dibs. Esau officially had the birthright of the family, but Jacob the schemer had other plans. As Isaac neared death and with help from his mother, Jacob tricked him into thinking he was Esau, and Isaac gave Jacob his official blessing. Esau was left wanting and eventually disappeared from view, away from God’s people.


It’s interesting that Jacob is in the pantheon of Jewish heroes despite what he did, although many realize that Jacob pulled some mighty shady dealings to get there.


Does that have you doubting integrity? Wonder where today’s connivers get their inspiration? Maybe it’s from Jacob.


Let’s move forward to 1st Samuel for another example…


Both books from Samuel are primarily about David, from when he was a boy and beat the mighty Goliath in the famous story to his time as king of all Israel. But in between David spent a lot of time on the run from King Saul, the first king of Israel.


Saul was originally anointed by God as king, but later he lost that blessing to David. This made Saul fearful and jealous, and he spent a long time chasing down David to kill him and keep his kingship. Even after Saul married off his daughter Michal to David to keep him in the family, the lust for power was just too much for Saul to handle.


On the run one day, David and some of his compatriots hid in a cave to escape Saul and his army. And in an amazing stroke of luck, who comes strolling into the cave but Saul himself. The king must have had a tough day and ended up apparently snoozing in the cave.


This was David’s golden moment – here was his adversary right in front of him…


David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. – 1 Samuel 24:3-4 NIV


If you were in such a position, being chased all over creation to be killed if you were ever caught, and the person who wanted you killed was right in FRONT of you in perfect position to be eliminated – what would YOU do?


David started to take out Saul….but then…


Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. – 1 Samuel 24:5-7 NIV


WHAAAAT? David, you have your adversary at your mercy. One swipe and it would have been all over. WHY wouldn’t you do that?


Because David suddenly had an attack of the guilts. A good old fashioned conscience storm. This was simply not the right thing to do and he knew it. Saul “escaped” death that day and it took quite a while longer for David to become king.


And even when King Saul eventually died on the battlefield at the hands of foreigners, it was David who openly mourned his loss. Very interesting behavior for someone who wanted to eliminate you.


David was a man of integrity. Was he perfect? Uh, remember the Bathsheba story? King David sees this gorgeous woman, brought her to the palace and had his way with her, getting her pregnant. Then he dispatched Bathsheba’s husband to the front lines to be killed by the enemy, after which he took his wife as his own.


David was as human as the rest of us and was called on the carpet by God and his prophet Nathan. And he later lost his first born son with Bathsheba – but when he realized what he had done David repented with fasting and sackcloth and was eventually forgiven.


Perhaps that’s the “problem” with integrity. None of us are perfect and we all screw up at some point, actually several points. It’s what happens AFTER we screw up that might ultimately prove our integrity. Do we immediately repent and acknowledge our error? Or do we stall and rationalize our actions until the situation passes?


Hmm, sound like any politicians or unscrupulous business types or ill doers suddenly in the spotlight that have made the news lately?


When’s the last time you had a conscience storm? If it’s been a while either you are a person of great integrity – or maybe your guilt meter needs some fixing. How to fix it? Some common every day praying – and we mean every day. Perhaps even the get down on your knees and really ask for guidance and forgiveness version.


God seeks people of integrity who follow His rules and laws, and who deeply ask for His forgiveness when we momentarily stray from the path and then not do it again. If only more of us – ALL of us - would do that…


From George Churchgoer