The Lies We Tell Day 4: People of Integrity
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. (Proverbs 11:3, ESV)
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8, ESV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8, ESV)
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” -C.S. Lewis
Matthew 1 details the story of Mary and Joseph as they receive the news that Mary is with child. In Luke 1, we read that Mary was approached by Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, and he told her that she would be with child, would have a Son, and His name would be Jesus. Though she was called one who “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30), I imagine that could have felt quite the opposite in her situation! She was a virgin, engaged to Joseph, and she just found out that she would be pregnant with a baby boy very soon. How would she explain this to her family? How would her friends and those in the community view her? How would Joseph feel? Would he even believe her story?
Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, and he decided he was going to divorce her quietly so as not to bring her to shame. Under Levitical law, Joseph had the right to have her put to death for the crime of adultery (even though she did not actually commit adultery). Instead of overreacting and exercising his rights, he made the choice to divorce her quietly so shame would not be brought to her (and himself, too!). Joseph could have tried to make a scene, publicly shame her, or do just about anything. However, the Lord had other plans.
The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). When Joseph awakened from his sleep, he followed the command of the angel of the Lord and took Mary as his wife. Even though he, by law, could have escaped a situation that would bring great shame, he acted with integrity and took Mary as his wife, willingly facing the shame and accusations that no doubt came.
Joseph was a man of integrity, and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was and is the ultimate example of integrity. Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” 1 Peter 2:22 says that the Lord Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.” It wasn’t just that He did not sin but that He was incapable of sinning. He acted with integrity at all times. In the verses above, the Bible describes how people of integrity act. Titus 2:7-8 includes an exhortation by Paul for believers to be “a model of good works,” to have dignity, and to act in such a way that enemies “have nothing evil to say about us.” Paul also encourages his brethren to think about and do things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent. Psalm 11:3 says that the integrity of the upright acts as a guide, while the crookedness of those who do not have integrity leads to their destruction.
If we, as believers, are going to act with integrity, following the example of the Lord Jesus is a great start. C.S. Lewis said that “integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” It’s easy to put on an act and only do the right thing when you know people are watching, but it’s an entirely different story when it’s just you. The Lord Jesus showed integrity in all circumstances, whether it was just Him and the Samaritan woman in John 4, or whether He was facing the mockery of a large crowd during His crucifixion in John 19. It would be my prayer that each of us would seek to be people of integrity, following the example the Lord Jesus so clearly set during His earthly ministry. What a testimony it would be if we were all a little more like Him.