Walk With Integrity
He who walks in integrity and with moral character walks securely, But he who takes a crooked way will be discovered and punished.
Integrity has been described as “doing the right thing even when nobody is looking.” When we try to hide our sinful behavior behind a mask of lies, we live with the constant fear of somebody finding out. All of us know this experience to some degree. Some of us stay on track most of the time and only occasionally have to fear being found out, but others have lied so much to cover their tracks that they don’t remember what’s true anymore.
A clear conscience is a treasure, but it doesn’t just happen. We can experience the peace of a clean heart and an uncluttered mind only if we make a rigorous commitment to live our lives in the presence of God, and when we fail, make things right quickly. There’s nothing quite as chilling as knowing you’re being watched. When we live with the confidence that everything we do passes under the eyes of God, we’ll make sure we don’t stray off the track. But we’re human, and our sinful nature gets the best of us from time to time. When that happens, the Holy Spirit taps us on the shoulder and says, “Hey, I saw what you did, and it was wrong.” We have a choice of saying, in effect, ‘Go away!” or “Yes, Lord, You’re right. That was a sin, and I thank you for forgiving me.”
Everything we do is already known to God, and someday, everything will be revealed to those we have tried to fool. It’s a much wiser course to walk with integrity now.
Every choice has a consequence; we can determine our choices, but we do not determine the consequences.
There are two characters in the Bible that illustrate both lifestyle choices- coverup or integrity. I don’t think anything demonstrates the consequences of choice better than the lives of Saul and David. Both men faced decision making and the choice they made would be contrary to that of righteousness.
Saul had been made king over Israel and as such he was tasked with going to battle with Israel’s enemies. He has been given specific instructions by Samuel the prophet.
“Now Saul waited seven days, according to the appointed time which Samuel had set, but Samuel had not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering away from Saul. As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel finally came; Saul went out to meet and to welcome him. But Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “Since I saw that the people were scattering away from me, and that you did not come within the appointed time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, therefore, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked for the Lord’s favor [by making supplication to Him].’ So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.”
1 Samuel 13:8,10-12
Saul chose to ignore his instructions and when Samuel confronted him he chose to excuse his conduct. Sometimes that’s us. We take a wrong action and when confronted, we chose to attempt to justify it. Some will even say, “The end justifies the means.” Others may try to rationalize their actions just a Saul did. Saul knew that only the priest were to offer the sacrifice but in his impatience, he chose to ignore what he knew was the right thing to do. Those who walk in integrity refuse to take actions that are wrong in nature and unethical. They choose to live in the sight of God knowing full well that He sees everything. They choose to honor God as His ambassadors, recognizing that others perception of God may be formed from their example. It doesn’t mean that we will always get it right, but when we fail, we take the responsibility to acknowledge to God and those around us that our conduct was wrong. Saul chose to excuse his conduct. In a round about way, he tried to place the blame on Samuel for not showing up on time. Little did Saul realize that God was testing his integrity. And God tests ours. In life we will face times that test our integrity. It will be so easy to let things slide, to operate like we see others, or to follow the pattern of this world, but we who have been called by God out of this world live under a different standard-integrity.
On a second occasion, Saul again has been given specific instructions.
Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people Israel. Now listen and pay close attention to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts (armies), ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way when Israel came up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and completely destroy everything that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
1 Samuel 15:1-3
So Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord. I have carried out the command of the Lord .” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have destroyed completely.” Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have completely destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things [that were] to be totally destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
1 Samuel 15:13-15,20-21
Do you see how Saul chose his own way and ignored his instructions and then chose to refuse to take responsibility? What a lack of integrity! And it cost him the throne. I truly believe that God would have forgiven him had he simply said, “I messed up.” And we can find grace for our mistakes when we confess. The Bible says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us.
To be sure we should strive, especially as Christians to make right and godly choices. Since we aren’t perfect, however, walking in integrity also means admitting when we’ve sinned both to God and also to anyone we’ve wronged by our conduct.
Our second case is David. When we compare the sins of David with Saul, we find that David sins appear to be more wrong. We read that he had an affair with Bathsheba who was married to Uriah. Trying to cover up his indiscretion, David brought Uriah home hoping that the child Bathsheba was carrying would be taken to be Uriah’s. Uriah, a soldier of integrity refused to sleep with his wife while his comrades were in battle, caused David’s coverup to fail. So David went deeper and sent orders to have Uriah set up to be killed in battle. As the kind king, David then brought Bathsheba to the palace and all seemed well. But God saw and sent Nathan the prophet to confront David. Here was the man of God confronting this powerful king. Nathan tells David a story:
And the Lord sent Nathan [the prophet] to David. He came and said to him, “There were two men in a city, one rich and the other poor. “The rich man had a very large number of flocks and herds, But the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb Which he had purchased and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It ate his food, drank from his cup, it lay in his arms, And was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler (visitor) came to the rich man, And to avoid taking one from his own flock or herd To prepare [a meal] for the traveler who had come to him, He took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for his guest.” Then David’s anger burned intensely against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. He shall make restitution for the ewe lamb four times as much [as the lamb was worth], because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul. David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has allowed your sin to pass [without further punishment]; you shall not die.
2 Samuel 12:1-7
Do you see how David responded? He admitted his sin and God gave him mercy. There were consequences but David found grace because of his integrity.
God is looking for those who will choose the way of integrity. Are you one of those?
Dr. John Thompson