INTEGRITY: THE MARK OF GODLINESS
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Integrity is doing the right thing even if no one is looking – C.S. Lewis
It used to be said that a gentleman’s word was good enough, and many businesses operated on that premise back then. Today, it would be very rare for companies to enter into a working relationship with another without spending large amounts of resources to do due diligence – calling for financial reports, drafting water-tight contracts that protect themselves from every eventuality, etc. Indeed the world has become a very complex place with very little room left for trust. Could this be due to a breakdown in a key virtue called integrity in our world today?
What about us as Christian men? We profess that we put our trust in God because we hold dear to verses such as Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness”(ESV). We firmly believe in a God who is absolutely trustworthy and who is the same yesterday, today and forever. But can we be trusted to keep our promises to our parents, wives, children, friends and colleagues? Can we be trusted to do the right thing even when no one is looking?
The word integrity has its root from the Latin word integritatem (nominative integritas) which means "soundness, wholeness, completeness", which is also the root word for the word integer used in mathematics to mean a whole number. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as follows:
1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY
2: an unimpaired condition : SOUNDNESS
3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS
To be a man of integrity is thus to be true both inside and outside, regardless of the circumstances we may be in. One Bible character that stands out for me as one who demonstrated integrity is Daniel. Daniel Chapter 6 records for us that the powerful Persian king, Darius, had appointed 120 satraps (overseers) to help him rule his kingdom. But to keep the satraps in check, he appointed three high officials – men whom he could trust - to whom the satraps would be accountable to. Daniel was one these officials. Among the three, Daniel “was distinguished above all the officials and satraps” (verse 3) and the king was planning to set him over the whole kingdom. This led to unhappiness among the officials and satraps and they plotted to take him down but could find “no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him” (verse 4) so they decided to attack Daniel on his practice of his faith. They eventually managed to devise a wicked scheme by tricking King Darius into signing an irrevocable injunction that no one could make any petition to any god or man for the next 30 days. Anyone breaking this law would be cast into the den of lions.
Daniel, having heard about what had happened, continued to do what he had always done, which is to pray to God three times a day facing a window overlooking Jerusalem. The evil men caught him in the act and reported him to the king. King Darius was greatly distressed but was helpless to revoke the injunction and Daniel was cast into the lions’ den. God intervened and saved Daniel who later testified that “My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” As a result, King Darius made a new decree saying that, “in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel”.
Here we see a man who was incorruptible, completely trustworthy, and willing to do what was right even when he knew it might cost his own life. Charles Swindoll in his book, ‘Man to Man’, outlines four characteristics of a godly man of integrity.
First, Daniel demonstrated an excellent attitude (verse 3, “an excellent spirit was in him”) – and this came from deep within. He displayed no airs and was even recognised by the officials and satraps as one who was faultless even though they tried very hard to scrutinise his every action. Even after being wrongfully punished with a death sentence, he did not blame anyone, and was not at all bitter in his response to the king the next morning.
Second, Daniel was faithful not only in his spiritual life but also his work life. He was true all the time – no negligence, no corruption, faithfully carrying out his duties with excellence.
Third, Daniel lived a life of purity that could stand up under the most intense scrutiny. Swindoll tells a story about a man and a woman who went to a restaurant to buy some fried chicken to go. By mistake the restaurant manager packed a box of his proceeds of the day into the bag and passed it to the man. The couple did not realise it till they reached a park where they opened the box to eat. Realising that a big mistake must have been made, they rushed back to the restaurant to return the money. The manager was elated and asked the couple to stay awhile so that he could get the newspaper to do a writeup and have their picture published to acknowledge their honesty. But the couple refused and when pressed for an answer, the man explained that he was married and the woman he was with was not his wife. This story illustrates how we can so often be true in one aspect of our lives, but in some other areas we can be so corrupted.
Fourth, Daniel had a consistent walk with the Lord. The passage records that Daniel had a consistent prayer life – three times a day he prayed and gave thanks before God. He continued doing this even when he knew it would cost his life. He was not just now going to God in fear or panic after hearing that the king had signed the document to execute the new law, Daniel just carried on his usual practice of praying to God.
Brothers, do we have an excellent spirit in us? Are we completely faithful in all that we do? Are we living in purity in every aspect of our lives that can withstand any amount of scrutiny? Are we consistent in our walk with the Lord come what may? May we learn from Daniel, and may the Lord help us to live our lives with integrity so that we can truly reflect godliness to the praise of His glorious name!