Integrity is defined as steadfast adherence to a moral code. Integrity means that you live by your conviction; it is practicing what you preach. Integrity comes from the word integral, which means whole or complete. Integrity is wholeness. Integrity is personality integrated in public or in private. Integrity cannot be faked. A man of integrity will do the right thing at all times. “Integrity is doing the right thing the right way for the right reason.” – Dr. Michael Youssef. “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching” – C.S Lewis.
Integrity is doing what is right, despite the outcome.
Integrity should be a key trait of a committed follower of Christ. It shows that we are not living for ourselves, but for God. As Martin Luther used to say, the essence of the Christian life is to live one’s life, “Coram Deo” – which literally means, “before the face of God.” What Luther was saying simply was this; the Christian life means to live all of your life in the presence of God, practising a consciousness of God from moment to moment, under the authority of God, and to the honour and glory of God. “Spiritual integrity grows best when it is exposed to the sun and to the wind and to the snow and to the hail.” – Dr. Michael Youssef.
Daniel and his friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) are a great role model for all of us today. They are a challenge to all of us. They were only teenagers when they found themselves living in exile in the hostile culture of Babylon. They were under tremendous pressure to conform but they stood their ground and refused to compromise. They were given new names in a world that tried to change their identity. They were subjected to subtle but powerful indoctrination, and yet Daniel and his friends purposed in their hearts, mind and will to walk in integrity. Even at the threat of death, they would not compromise their conviction (Daniel 1, 3 & 6).
Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the king’s food and wine. Daniel was not only smart but he was a gifted young man. He objected without being objectionable by politely declining the king’s food and wine, and requested to be fed vegetables and water as a substitute. He completely trusted that God would keep him and his friends healthy and strong while on this very simple diet. Although, the reason for declining the king’s food and wine is not quite obvious, some perhaps would think it was quite silly for them to refuse the King’s food and wine. Daniel could easily have said that this was all a minor issue and got along with the pressure of culture rather than standing up, and refusing to conform. But Daniel and his three friends (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) refused to compromise.
In the parable of the dishonest manager, Jesus said, “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.” – Luke 16:10. When you learn to tolerate small compromises, you can only grow to tolerate big compromises. There is a saying that great victories are won on small matters. Daniel was approximately 14 years of age when he refused to compromised on the little thing; He was approximately 81 years of age when he refused to compromise on the big thing.
The story of Daniel in the den of lions is one of the most familiar stories in the whole of the Bible. It has inspired many books, paintings, and music. Daniel dared to defile the decree of the king and would not bow down to worship the king. He went to his house, where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously (Daniel 6:10). And consequently, he was thrown in the den of lions.
king Darius somewhat unknowingly signed a proposed decree with ulterior motives that was pushed through by the king’s law maker which stated that anyone that makes petition to any god or man within a period of thirty days, except to himself shall be cast into the den of lions (Daniel 6:7). I think most rational minds perhaps would have said to Daniel, “it’s just for 30 days, it’s only for a short period of time, it is not a long time, it’s not forever. Just compromise for a few days and save your skin”
As Christians, we ought not be ignorant of the schemes of Satan (2 Cor 2:11). “The devil knows that the first step toward unfaithfulness is the hardest for him and the easiest for us” – Dr. Michael Youssef. The next day, Daniel was found alive and well in the Lion’s den miraculously. And he was able to testified to the king of Persia saying, “O king, live forever! 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.” – Daniel 6:22.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves in a similar situation to Daniel when they defied king Nebuchadnezzar and refused to fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Just before they were cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace for disobeying the king’s decree, they remained faithful and declared boldly saying to the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” – Daniel 3.
It is said that every man has their price. “People who have no price has integrity.” – John MacArthur. Martin Luther, the great reformer was told to recount or lose his life; he chose the latter. In a world of compromise, integrity is a precious commodity. Daniel and his friends are of the very few examples in scripture who chose to honour God first above men, and would not compromise their integrity. Even during biblical times, it was often rare to come across a man of integrity.
- Adam compromised God’s law; followed his wife sin, and consequently, lost paradise (Genesis 3)
- Abraham compromised about the truth; lied about Sarah’s relationship to him, and consequently, nearly lost his wife (Genesis 20)
- Moses compromised God’s commandment and lost the privilege of entering the promised land (Deuteronomy 32)
- Samson compromised his devotion as a Nazarite; lost his strength, his eyesight, and his life (Judges 16).
- Israel compromised the commands of the Lord; lived in sin, and when fighting the Philistines, lost the ark of God (1 Samuel 4).
- Saul compromised God’s divine Word by not slaying the Amalek completely and lost his kingdom calling (1 Samuel 15).
- David compromised God’s standard; committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered Uriah, and consequently lost an infant son (2 Samuel 12).
- Judas compromised his allegiance to Christ for 30 pieces of silver and was separated from Christ forever (Matthew 26).
Pastor-teacher John MacArthur pointed out couple of observations after highlighting the following cases of compromises revealed in scripture. He said, “In every case of compromise, the compromiser thought there was something to gain. But in every case of compromise, something priceless was lost for something temporary, unfulfilling and sinful.”
A synonym to the word integrity is righteousness. “The primary basic meaning of the word, ‘righteousness’ has to do with behaviour – it means doing what is right or doing the right thing” – R.C Sproul. Righteousness is right-ness: it’s choosing right over wrong. As Christians we are called to be motivated to do what is right. But to do what is right is not always pleasurable, desirable, enjoyable or profitable, and it may have a very heavy price tag. Because of the reality of sin, no human is perfectly righteous. We are natural sinners and we are often far from being righteous. We all have different areas where we particularly struggle to be righteous. Some of us struggle with lust, some with being proud or arrogant, some with anger, some with laziness, and so forth.
Do you ever ask yourself what your point of vulnerability is (if Satan would come to you and put you to the test)? What would Satan offer you? Glory? A Kingdom? Riches? Power? All these things were offered to Jesus. Satan came to Jesus when he was alone in the wilderness and tried to tempt him saying, “All these things I would give you if you would fall down and worship me.” – Matthew 4:9. Jesus could have accepted Satan’s offer and nobody would have known about it. But no, Jesus rebuked Satan and said to him, “Away with you Satan! You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve.” – Matthew 4:10… How do you respond to Satan’s temptations when you are alone and nobody is there to see what you do? The devil knows exactly the area of your life that are not fully under the control of God – the Holy Spirit, and he focuses on that area with absolutely bulls eyes accuracy.
As I ponder on my own life, I guess you can say that I am no better than anyone else. I have to confess that I am far from being as righteous as I should be, or pursuing it as much as I should. But in pursuing righteousness, as a Christian, I find it helpful to pray for God’s help to become more righteous in those areas where I struggle. I find it all the more helpful to remember that where I failed, Jesus’ triumph. Jesus not only had to die for our sins, but he had to live for our righteousness. The Bible makes it clear that all of our self-righteousness are like fifthly rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). We constantly fall short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23), and therefore we need Christ as our high priest atoning and interceding for us. For our sake He (God) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). For us Christians, Christ Jesus is our only true righteousness.
As Christians, we are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). In seeking God’s righteousness for our lives, we ought to often stop, ask and apply this question to every area of our lives: What is the Holy and righteous thing to do? “We went through a fad a few years ago with 10 billion bracelets sold, ‘WWJD’ – What would Jesus do? I want to know what would Jesus think because, if I’m going to be Christlike, I have to think like Jesus. I have to love what He loves; I have to hate what He hates.” – RC Sproul.
Our natural mind can never discover the mind/wisdom of God. But when we come under (not above) the authority of Scripture (The Holy Bible), the Holy Spirit (Our Helper) explains, trains and lead us into understanding the mind of God. The Holy Spirit leads us into God’s truth – the only truth – by revealing the word of God to us. Utterly depending and surrendering all areas of our lives to the Holy Spirit helps us to live by faith and walk in integrity and righteousness acceptable and pleasing unto God.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”
– Beatitude of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:6)