Honesty. Integrity. Commitment to our word. Following through with promises. Last week we heard Tommy Young testify that when he walked in for a job interview after quitting a job because he felt like it would compromise his integrity to continue, the person conducting the interview said he didn’t even need to see Tommy’s resume. He said Tommy’s word and name said all he needed to know.
That very encounter proves what Proverbs 11:3 maintains: “The integrity of the upright guides them.” You will go places, be connected to things, encounter people, gain opportunities, and become a person of influence if you are known to be a person of integrity. Your integrity will literally become a guiding force in your life.
Listen to David’s prayer in Psalm 25:20-21 “Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in You.”
Remember also last week that I said that God is not only our Guide, but He is also our Guard. Here we see that one way God provides protection, one way God guards our lives is through our integrity. David prayed that his integrity would protect him. How can integrity protect someone?
This idea is further discussed in Proverbs 2:7-8 “He holds victory in store for the upright. He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Our integrity is tied to God being a shield and protector for us. Integrity attracts the protection of God.
1 Chronicles 29:17 says, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” When God is pleased with us, He expresses that. He rewards that with His guiding and protecting presence. It’s like positive affirmation. When we are on the right track, God is there to let us know we are doing the right thing the right way and He wants to encourage us to keep it up.
I like the way the Message translation puts it: Proverbs 2:7-8 He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. He keeps his eye on all who live honestly, and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.
The chapter heading for Proverbs 2 is “The Benefits of Wisdom.” The wisest thing we can do is to live honestly, uprightly, as people of integrity. Why? Because developing integrity and living with integrity becomes a guiding and guarding force for our lives.
Integrity is important; God places a very high value on integrity. (Prov. 28:6 NASB) “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, than he who is crooked though he be rich.” Too often we are chasing stuff, acquiring stuff, reaching for stuff, when God says integrity is a lot more valuable than anything a person could obtain in this life. When push comes to shove, your stuff won’t get you the job, your stuff won’t get you an audience with someone who needs to hear you out, your stuff won’t convince anyone that God is faithful, your stuff won’t open doors for you, but your integrity will!
You and I will suffer many moments of loss in this life, but one of the greatest things we could lose, perhaps the one thing with the most lasting impact, would be the loss of one’s integrity.
What are some things that cause a person to lose his or her integrity whether instantly or over time? Proverbs 11 gives us some clues. Look again at Proverbs 11:3:
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”
- Duplicity will assassinate a person’s integrity. Talking the talk isn’t enough. You have to walk the walk.
Warren Wiersbe has said, “The first duty of every soul is not to find its freedom but its Master.” (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991, p. 22.)
If you are going to have and maintain integrity, you have to settle first who and what you are living for. You can’t live for God and self at the same time. A person with integrity is a person who is focused in one direction. As Christians, our one purpose, our one aim, the highest pursuit of our lives is to glorify God. Everything else either falls under that goal or it must be eliminated from our lives.
James tells us that a double-minded man or a duplistic man or a man who has one foot in one camp and another foot in another camp or who says one thing but lives another, is “unstable” in all he does (James 1:8). The way I heard it growing up was, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Our “yes” should mean “yes.” Our “no” should mean “no.” There are lines, borders, and perimeters for our lives that must not be crossed or compromised. We aren’t one way on Sunday morning and another way on Monday.
At the heart of integrity is a commitment to God’s way alone. We can’t mix a little Jesus with a little of Wall Street and a little of Hollywood Blvd. and think our lives will stay on a straight, focused or profitable course.
Proverbs 11:6 says, “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.” People of integrity not only know who and what they are living for, but they only entertain the desires that will enable them to succeed in committing wholeheartedly to God’s plan. What you give your heart to, what you set your mind on, what you allow yourself to get excited or passionate about will determine whether you stay singly focused on God’s plan for your life.
There is no shortage of distraction for today’s Christian. There is no lack of pleasure to get caught up in and be entertained by, but it is a trap just like Proverbs 11:6 says, to keep you from glorifying God alone.
Too many people think God can be one of many pursuits. They think they can be faithful to many lifestyles, to many commitments. Don’t we pride ourselves on multi-tasking? We think we can dabble in the things of the world and not expect them to impact us long term or keep us from growing in our walk with Christ. Satan does a great job of making sin look harmless. But we see in this verse that prostitution of our passions takes us to prison. It is the evil desire that then traps us, keeping us from the one way of living that would have ensured our greatest freedom.
Discovering our purpose, each one of us, as beings created in God’s image under God’s control and design and committing to that plan, that’s integrity.
- The second thing that will assassinate a person’s integrity is the use of reckless words.
Look at Proverbs 11:9 and 12, 13: “With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor.” “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”
Good, positive, wise, and encouraging words will attract people to us. People of integrity are people that others can look up to and aspire to be like. Nothing will turn people off faster than someone who is angry, condescending, arrogant, and incapable of maintaining a confidence.
Proverbs 12 verse 18, says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Reckless words are words spoken in haste without thought for how they will impact those who hear them.
People of integrity know what to say and know when to say nothing. There is power in what we say, whether for good or bad. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” If you want to assassinate your integrity, comment on everything someone says, try to prove a point every time you speak, talk with the goal of putting someone in their place, say things that will create drama to people’s circumstances and tell everything you know or hear.
When God created the world, how did He do it? He SPOKE it into being! We see in Scripture when Jesus SPOKE the lame were healed. On the day of Pentecost, Peter SPOKE and thousands became Christians. Think of the times you felt encouraged or valued. Did those feelings come after someone SPOKE? Think of the times you felt worthless or rejected. Did those feelings also accompany SPOKEN words?
Our words tell people whether they can trust us or not. If we are judgmental, mean-spirited or critical people as is demonstrated by our words, others will never share their hurts or hearts with us. I’ve heard parents say, “I wish my teenager would talk to me and let me know what is going on!” Could it be your words have assassinated your integrity with your kids? Could it be they don’t trust you to listen and show compassion because your words have been reckless towards them in the past?
If you gossip and spread rumors you will become untrustworthy in other people’s hearts and minds. Even if what you are passing on is true, the very fact that you are sharing other people’s business freely will cause others not to trust you.
People of integrity realize that all opinions aren’t always helpful. Did you catch the middle part of verse 12? “A man of understanding holds his tongue.” You haven’t been in everyone’s shoes. You don’t know the kind of day, week or month someone is having. To comment on something you see just one time or to offer your opinion without background information, that’s not acting in wisdom.
Even sarcasm and put downs which are perhaps innocent and playful can go too far and reduce people to feeling like “nothings” or “zeros.”
Remember, integrity is an internal matter. It happens on the inside. Didn’t Jesus say, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34)?” If we are reckless and careless with our words, we have a heart problem which means we have an integrity problem.
- Third, another thing that can assassinate a person’s integrity is solo living.
Look at verse 14: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.”
You and I were not meant to live in isolation. We need others to speak truth into our lives. Accountability creates stability and stability will sustain integrity! People in the limelight, even Christian leaders, when they fall, when it comes out that their character is corrupt, what is often pointed to very readily? A lack of accountability. An unwillingness to answer to anyone. The desire to live above the rules and think they would never get caught.
Verse 14 tells us we need to surround ourselves with people who give good advice. Christians, you need to be investing in some relationships with people who are sold out, singly focused, and wise with their words who have also made themselves accountable to others.
When we get wounded, we often get defensive and short-sighted. Having the guidance and input of many Christians enables us to see if we are processing things clearly and correctly. Integrity grows from listening to the wisdom of others and learning from our own mistakes. Integrity grows from being able to take direction and correction. I guarantee you the good parts of who you are were influenced by the good example and wise words of someone else. You don’t just evolve into brilliant or stable or profitable. You become such as a result of learning from others, being shaped by their experiences and wisdom.
Occasionally you need to be willing to hear someone say, “I’m not sure you want to go down that road.” Once in a while you need to have someone say, “Have you thought of it this way?” People of integrity put themselves on purpose in accountability relationships.
- Finally, the last thing that can assassinate a person’s integrity is selfish living.
Look at verses 24 and 25 of Proverbs 11: “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
People of integrity recognize the needs around them. They are conscious of ways they can help others. They extend themselves to make life better for other people. There are lots of ways to be generous. I believe every time we give of our time, our talent or our treasure, we receive the refreshing Proverbs 11:25 speaks of.
To see someone in need and ignore it isn’t integrity. You see at the heart of integrity is doing the right or good thing. Integrity carries with it the idea of maturity or wholeness. People who are mature aren’t people who aren’t self-centered. Infants and children expect the world to revolve around them. They insist on being catered to. But people with integrity have reached a point of maturity where they realize that one of the reasons we are here is to help each other out.
Think about the people you know that you would say possess great integrity. Aren’t they the kind of person who would go out of their way for a stranger, give someone the “shirt off their back,” or just naturally are a blessing to others?
People of integrity aren’t out for number one. No one had more integrity than Jesus. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” That’s integrity! Always reliable, always consistent, always on mission. No one is more consistent or true to his word than Jesus? And yet Jesus wasn’t motivated by what He could gain from those around Him. He didn’t look for ways to add to His following. He didn’t sidestep the poor or needy to get to a more important meeting. He was generous. He was a servant of others.
People of integrity realize the point of life is not to hoard resources, but to be stewards of all God has given to us. Scripture is clear in so many places that the person God can trust to distribute His resources is a person to who will flow blessing after blessing. Living with integrity means living with an eye toward refreshing others.
The truth this morning is that integrity in our Christian walk is everything. Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. Without integrity, we can never with the world to Christ. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” (Billy Graham-http://www.jesussite.com/quotes/integrity.html)
What kind of shape is your integrity in this morning? Are you living a duplistic life in any way or all you all in when it comes to the purpose of glorifying God with your life? How about with the words you speak? Are any of your words like bullets that are assassinating your integrity as you lose credibility with people due to reckless words? To whom are you accountable? Who can speak the truth into your life? From whom do you receive instruction and correction or are you too proud to ask others for help or advice? What was the last generous thing you did? Do you view all of your resources as God’s to direct and control? Do you see your mission in this life as one that is to be a blessing to others? Do you have enough integrity that God can bless you with “stuff” and expect you to use it for His glory? If you can’t answer all four of these questions in a way that supports integrity in your life, I invite you to come and pray and with God’s help to assassinate the assassinators of your integrity.