Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land. …Then Saul said to his servants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." 1 Samuel 28:3,7
King Saul had a problem with integrity. He was one thing publicly, but another thing privately. In public, he took a stand against mediums and drove them out of Israel, but in private, at least on one occasion, they were still a part of his life.
Integrity comes from the Latin word “integer” which means “one” or “wholeness.” To have integrity means there is no double mindedness or duplicity in one’s character. It is the condition of being whole—undivided in values and conduct. It is the struggle to be without contradiction in one’s character.
By contrast, Saul was duplicitous. He was double minded. He forbade others from seeking out witches and outlawed mediums from the land, but still harbored them in his own heart.
INTEGRITY ARISES FROM PRINCIPLES
The person of integrity is a person of principle. They are guided by absolutes: an internalized set of rules that guides their decisions and determines their course of conduct. They are firm on what is right and what is wrong. Of course, they are not perfect and may fall short of their convictions from time to time. But, at the core, they struggle to remain consistent with the values in which they believe.
Absolutes are simply that, absolute. They are truths that are not dependent on external conditions, opinions, or approvals for their nature or existence. They exist as sovereign realities simply because they are true. One plus one equals two is absolute. Two plus two equals four is absolute. These realities do not need personal interpretation or application to be true; they are correct on the basis of their own nature. In much the same way, the man of integrity recognizes certain moral absolutes and has integrated his life around them. Like the engineer adhering to principles of mathematics, the person of integrity commits to these absolutes as the guiding equations of his life. He believes them to be essential truths that will keep his home, his family, his ministry, his career, and all things secure. In fact, everything in his life depends on his recognizing and building his life upon those essential truths.
For the Christian, the “absolute” is God’s Word, the Bible. Scripture is the standard, the authoritative rule for faith and conduct in this life. Beginning with the Ten Commandments and extending through the Epistles of Paul, these truths provide foundational principles that serve as the basis for integrity.
INTEGRITY REQUIRES COURAGE
Most people have integrity until that integrity costs them something personally. It’s our willingness to pay a price for our morals that demonstrates if the integrity we claim to have is real or mere pretense.
It was easy for Daniel (in Daniel 1:8) to abstain from pagan foods while living in Jerusalem where pagan food was taboo. The real test of integrity came in Babylon, when he was expected—even commanded—to eat pagan foods. It was when his principles required him to defy the king and say, “No. I won’t!” It was when there was a potential cost involved that his integrity was authentically demonstrated.
I was easy for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (in Daniel 3:13-18) to refuse to bow before idols in Israel where idolatry was frowned upon. That’s not showing integrity. True integrity was shown when Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to bow under threat of execution if they refused. True integrity was revealed when the guards heated the furnace, bound them with chains and still they refused to bow. True integrity was shown when they were tossed into the fire and would not betray their convictions even expecting death to ensue. That is integrity, when it costs.
True integrity will be tested. It has a price which can only be paid by the courageous—the one who is willing to lose friends, become unpopular, face rejection, mockery, insult and even injury. Integrity costs. Integrity requires courage.
INTEGRITY IS WHAT HAPPENS IN PRIVATE
Integrity means doing what is right when no one is watching. Psalms 101:2 says, “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” The old saying is still true: “Integrity is when you do the right thing even though no one is watching.” It’s what we do when we’re all alone, when no one is there to appreciate our goodness or rebuke our badness that defines the authenticity of our integrity. Anyone can stand in the pulpit and declare high ideals to the admiration of the crowd. As well, anyone can avoid doing wrong when he knows he’s being monitored in the spotlight. It’s what a man will do when he knows he will get away with it that reveals how much integrity he really has.
Integrity is not true unless it passes the privacy test. True integrity is what happens when no one is watching and I know I can get away with compromising it. If you want to be anointed in public, learn first how to be anointed in private. Learn how to honor God, walk in purity, and maintain integrity in secret and God will bless you openly.
INTEGRITY TELLS THE TRUTH
Proverbs 12:22 says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.” Ephesians 4:25 says: “(put) away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.” By contrast, studies reveal that 91 percent of people lie regularly, 69 percent admit to frequently lying to their spouses, and 32 percent believe that they've been lied to by their pastor.
So what is “lying?” That’s easy one may say: “It’s a statement that misleads or deceives someone.” But lying is more than a deceptive statement—lying is any action or intention that misleads, deceives, or misrepresents the truth.
1 Peter 2:1 says, “Therefore, lay aside all guile (or deceit).” Honesty, as the Bible defines it, means avoiding statements or actions (such as giving partial information, or making out-of-context statements, or even maintaining silence) that are intended to create beliefs or leave impressions that are untrue or misleading. Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics states, “Honesty is a good-faith intent to convey the truth as best we know it and to avoid communicating in a way likely to mislead or deceive.”
INTEGRITY KEEPS ITS WORD
Psalm 15:1-4 tells us, “Who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly…He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” James 5:12 says it like this, “…let your ‘Yes,’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.” Too often people who lack integrity say “yes” but then their “yes” quickly changes to “no.”
It is important to understand that the ethic of keeping one’s word is an absolute. It is a universal principle, revealed in God’s Word, intended for all who would “abide in His tabernacle” to observe. Robert Service said, “A promise made is a debt unpaid.” The man of integrity takes his word very seriously. Anytime he gives his word, makes a promise or commits, it is (to him) like incurring a debt: a debt that can only be satisfied by doing what’s been promised.
INTEGRITY BRINGS SECURITY
Proverbs10:9 tells us, “He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known.” One’s life may be filled with great accomplishments, but it is integrity that keeps those accomplishments secure.
Saul was a leader who lacked integrity and it became his downfall. God had promoted him to the pinnacle of success but his character was unable to support it. Are we men and women of integrity? Success and promotion will bring many temptations and opportunities to compromise our morals. But the leaders that have integrity will stand. Integrity keeps us consistent, reliable, and honest: qualities which provide a foundation to support a leader’s enlargement.