The Integrity of the Upright
"And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause." (Job 2:3)
"Moreover Job continued his parable, and said, As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me." (Job 27:1-5)
When I get to feeling sorry for myself I try to remind myself to think about Job. The little daily irritations and frustrations I feel are nothing compared to what Job had to live through. Imagine you have a perfect life - family, friends, wealth, respect - and then suddenly it is all gone. On top of that you contract a chronic disease. Then your "friends" show up to berate and slander you. No wonder Job cries out that he wishes he was never born. Not having anything to begin with would probably be better than having it all taken away. So, how did Job get through? Integrity.
King David also had his trials. In Psalm 41 he bemoans some of his problems. Similar to Job, he complains that his enemies took pleasure in his afflictions and all his friends did was "speak vanity" to him. Like Job, David overcame.
"By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.
And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever." (Psalm 41:11-12)
There is that word "integrity" again. What we usually think of when we read the word "integrity" is the idea of having sound moral principles, honesty, sincerity, and so on. However, the original meaning of the word has more to do with the idea of wholeness. Integrity is derived from the same Latin word as the words "integrated" and "integer." So, integrity is not just being moral but connotes a certain type of virtue that is the result of being consistent and undivided in thought and action. In fact, the Hebrew word translated integrity in the Bible also is used to mean complete. It too has the underlying meaning of "not-divided." Thus, the integrity that Job and David had was not simply that they were honest and moral. Their integrity was that they had an undivided mind. They had a pattern of thinking such that no matter what happened to them, they would continue to act upon what they knew to be right.
Now, consider the actions of Peter in Mark chapter 14.
"And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee. But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." (Mark 14:27-29)
"And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: 67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. 68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest." (Mark 14:66-68)
That's what happens when you lack integrity. Peter goes from one extreme to the other. First he proudly declares he will never abandon Jesus. Then, the when the moment of danger to himself comes, he lies and even denies he knows Jesus. His mind was divided between his desire to protect Jesus and his desire to protect himself. It wasn't the first time Peter failed this way, and it wouldn't be the last, either. When Jesus called to Peter to come walk on the water with Him, Peter first steps out of the boat in faith, then doubts, becomes afraid and begins to sink (Matt. 14:28-31). At least Peter had the sense to cry out to Jesus to rescue Him! After pulling Peter out, Jesus chides him with, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" That word "doubt" translates a Greek word that literally means to have a divided mind. First comes division in the mind in the form of doubt and uncertainty. Then, the doubt leads to fear and failure. Once the mind is divided, fear, confusion and then failure is the result.
I think it's very important to understand this. All Satan had to do to Adam and Eve was to get them to doubt God. Once he planted the seed of doubt in their minds, they began to become unsure of what they should do. In a sense, the fall of man is nothing more than having a mind divided between good and evil. We have an uncertainty and confusion as to what is right and what is wrong and that uncertainty leads to immoral actions. Moreover, we become doubtful of our own survival. The carnal mind, full of uncertainty of its continued existence becomes filled with fear of not having enough food, shelter and other necessities of life. That fear of being cold, hungry and alone becomes the entire motivation for man's actions. The end result is a world of strife and evil. And, it all begins with a mind divided from God and divided within itself. In other words, a lack of wholeness of mind that is the opposite of integrity.
Once the lack of integrity sets in, man can seem to rationalize anything. All manner of deceit, misrepresentation, lies and violence are done in the name of the "greater good." You are expected to cover your mistakes so that no one catches you. If someone accuses you of wrong, you must defend yourself, and the more clever you are in that defense the better. Cunning and craftiness are the way you get ahead in the world and getting ahead in the world is what the world teaches you ought to be doing. With that type of attitude, it is no surprise that men will compromise their morals when deemed necessary to their own survival or advancement.
Furthermore, doubt is the exact opposite of faith. People today often think of faith as what you do when you lack certainty about something. They will say that they don't know for certain, but they have "faith." However, in the Bible, faith is having complete certainty about something even if it is not yet apparent. In other words, no doubt at all. Thus, faith and integrity are related. To have an undivided mind that is confident in the truth and willing to act on that truth no matter what the consequences, is what Job and David had and what Peter lacked.
Just as I take encouragement from the story of Job, I also gain from Peter's example. Very few of us have the patience of Job or the faith of David. Most of the time we are more like Peter. We waver back and forth, full of doubt and generally make a mess of things. But always remember that it was Peter who became the great evangelist and set the world on its head through his preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, there is hope for those of us who are yet impatient and limited in our faith!
What I think is the greatest example of integrity in the Bible is the story of the trial of Jesus. While Peter was outside lying about knowing Jesus to save his own skin, Jesus stood mute in front of his accusers. He completely ignores the false accusations without responding at all. Think how different that is than what most of us do. We are so unsure of ourselves that the slightest attack on our character is met with outrage and a boisterous defense of our self. Our natural inclination is to fight back, argue and defend our honor. But Jesus just ignores all the lies. Then the moment of truth comes. With all of the false accusations discounted, the high priest asks Jesus straight out, "Are you the Son of God?" All Jesus needed to do to avoid pain, suffering and death was to respond with one word: No. But to do so would have been a lie and everything He came to accomplish would have been lost. The worldly attitude (and what I suspect most people would have suggested Jesus do) would have been to hedge a little and maybe get out of a bad situation. They would say, just think of all the good Jesus could have done if he avoided the cross! He could have continued teaching and healing for many more years. Wouldn't that have been a "good thing?" No, because Jesus had already settled the matter with the Father in Heaven, his mind was undivided and there was no going back. On the promise of the Father that He would raise Jesus up from the dead, Jesus willingly gave up His life for us. That's "integrity."
The bottom line is this: we don't overcome adversity because we fight against it any more than we overcome by remaining passive in the face of oppression. There are times to fight and times to not fight. There is a time to be patient and a time to move quickly. But, in either case, the way to overcome the trials and tribulations we face is to maintain our integrity. Be whole and undivided in mind. That's what integrity is all about.
"The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them." (Proverbs 11:3)