The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. Proverbs 11:3
A certain Baptist deacon had an old car that was broken down more than it was running, and decided to sell it while he could still get something out of it. He ran an ad in the paper describing it as a trustworthy vehicle which had lots of good miles left in it. When a prospective buyer responded to the ad, the man poured it on, telling him what a good car it was and how badly he hated to part with it. The buyer said, “I’d like to buy your car, but I can’t pay you until the first of next month, but you can trust me. I’m a Presbyterian elder in our local church, and my word is as good as my bond.”
So the two men shook hands on the deal and the Presbyterian elder drove away with the car previously owned by the Baptist deacon. When he got home, his wife asked, “Where is the money?” And her husband replied, ‘Well, he can’t give us the money until the first of next month. But there is nothing to worry about. We can trust him. He’s a Presbyterian elder.” And then he added, “What’s a Presbyterian elder?” And she replied, “About the same thing as a Baptist deacon.” Whereupon her husband exclaimed, “We’re in real trouble.”
Chuck Swindoll says that integrity is simply doing what you say you are going to do. Unquestionably, keeping your word—telling it like it really is without embellishment or exaggeration—is a reflection of integrity. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says that integrity is being incorruptible or complete, “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, utter sincerity, honesty, and candor.”
If there is one flagrant flaw in the moral character of people today it is the lack of integrity in both public and private life. David said “in his haste” (or alarm, as another translation puts it) that “all men are liars” (Psalm 116:11). If he had lived today, said a casual observer of what is happening, he could have taken his time and said it!
One of the reasons that youth today are so cynical about life is that dishonesty is so common they disbelieve almost everything and everyone. But is there a foundation for their cynicism? Unquestionably. Politicians say one thing on one occasion and reverse themselves, affirming the very opposite, a few days later. Honesty in both public and private life is a reflection of the lack of integrity in people today.
There are some moral fibers which constitute the very fabric of a society, and when the fabric is gradually ripped and torn, the end result is moral confusion and social disintegration. Integrity is part of that fabric, and it is sadly in need of repair today.
Some say that people can still have integrity without having religious convictions. Though I question that premise, I do know that individuals who believe they are accountable to God, and have a moral framework and code by which they live based upon biblical convictions, are far more apt to believe that integrity is important than those who think they answer to no one and are not accountable for what they do.
Expedience, shallowness and artificiality are all enemies of integrity. They are to be abhorred no matter how great the cost. When the North Koreans captured General William Dean, he was permitted to write one letter home. He chose to write to his son and in the letter he said, “Bill, remember that integrity is the most important thing of all. Let it always be your aim.”
Question: Have you sold any old cars lately? Should the mother of the mechanic who worked on your car have bought it, would you have been embarrassed? No matter what others may do, integrity is a conviction which can make the difference in your life, and when you make a difference, our world will be better.
Resource reading: Proverbs 11.