Written by Lara Tovmassian, Art by Tammi Yu
Imagine you’re playing in the finals for your soccer team. The ‘winning’ goal has just been made, but there is debate about whether or not the player who made the goal was out of bounds when he kicked the ball. The referee, sun-tired after hours in the heat, didn’t get a clear look when the player made the shot.
Now, imagine that you were the only one who got a clear view of the shot and could confirm that he was in fact out of bounds. The only problem is, the player that made the shot was on your team. The referee comes to you for confirmation, because you undoubtedly had the clearest and most accurate view of the shot. What do you tell him? If you tell the truth, your team members will be upset with you, but if you don’t, you’ll grant your team a dishonest victory.
Such moments are the ones in which integrity is formed. The definition of integrity is doing what you know is right, even when honesty will come at a price that you don’t want to pay. It means keeping your eyes on your own exam when you didn’t have time to prepare for it and confessing to your parents the seemingly unforgiveable mistake you made last month. Having integrity means taking ownership of your decisions, good or bad, and humbly accepting their consequences.
The Proverbs of the Bible are rich with references to integrity. Proverbs 10:9 reads, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” Notice the consequences for both parties. The person with integrity walks securely. The verse does not say “walks around with a smile on his face”; it does not promise happiness or prosperity, but rather it promises security. One who practices integrity will walk securely in the confidence of Christ, for he will walk in accordance with Scripture. But he who walks crookedly will be found out. The language here is also interesting, as it does not say he “will be cast out” or “will be destroyed.” Rather, he will be found out; he will eventually become tangled in the web of lies that he so meticulously weaves and his folly will be made known to those whom he has wronged.
Truth is, there are consequences for having integrity and there are consequences for not having it. When acting in integrity, you might face embarrassment and ridicule from those around you, but you will receive praise from the Lord. When you choose dishonesty over integrity, you may avoid ridicule in the moment, but you will eventually “be found out” and more importantly, you will displease the Lord. Integrity really comes down to having your priorities straightâ€”facing a consequence that may be unpleasant in the moment for the sake of God’s glory.
Perhaps the times in which integrity is tested the most are the times when nobody else is watching. Luke 16:10 reads, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” This verse points out something very criticalâ€”the truth that our decision-making habits in small circumstances will carry over into our decision-making habits in more significant ones. Somebody who keeps the extra $10 bill that the cashier accidentally gave him will probably not tell the referee that his teammate was out of bounds when he made the winning goal. Somebody who cheats on her exams every week is not likely to be honest in relationships with her parents, friends, and significant others. Every decision you make, good or bad, has the ability to set a trend for your future decisions. When considering this verse from Luke 16, it is important to ask ourselves this question: When I do the right thing, am I doing it to be praised by man or by God? If you are doing it for God, then it should not even matter if others are watching. He is glorified when He sees us acting out of the love and integrity that He has filled us with.
Beyond all of these truths about integrity, we must remember that our strength to act in such a way is found only in the Lord, not in ourselves. It may sound impossible for somebody to truly take joy in the suffering that often accompanies integrity. Because of our sinful nature, we do not have the ability to choose righteousness on our own accord. Even so, the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit gives us victory in Christ over temptation and all sin. In Scripture, Christ never commands us to do something without reminding us who we are in Him. Bearing the name of Christ gives us the strength and responsibility to lead lives of integrity, honor and worship.
Written by Lara Tovmassian, Art by Tammi Yu