Habits: Integrity

We’ve spent the first four months of the year studying the first core value of New Hope: unconditional love.  We now know much more fully what God’s love is, how it behaves, and how to walk in it.  As 1 Corinthians 13 teaches, this type of love must be the motive behind all that we do or our lives will accomplish nothing worthwhile.  Unconditional love is the foundation.

This morning, we’re going to build on this foundation and move into our next core value: sacrificial integrity.

Integrity is the state of being complete or undivided.  In the Hebrew, it is the word tom.  There is actually no word in the Greek language that directly translates to our English word integrity.  However, the New Testament root word used when translated to integrity is the same word for true.

Integrity, when referring to a life, is as person who is consistent in how they think, how they speak, and how they act.  Integrity is a thoroughness in consistency and a constancy in reliability.  Integrity is being consistently the same in both our private life as well as our public life.  It is responding the same to circumstances when no one is around just the same as when others are taking notice.

We expect integrity in almost every aspect of our lives.

We wouldn’t accept filling car’s tank to find that 10% of the fuel that we used was water as we sputter down the road.  We get upset when we can only hear bits and pieces of what the other person is saying on our phone calls.  We get irritated when our streaming videos stutter or look pixely.

If we bought a 10 pound bag of potatoes, we wouldn’t accept it if 1 pound of them were rotted.  When we pay to have a job done, we don’t want only half of the project completed on time and for the cost.  When we work a full week, we won’t accept only two days of pay on our check; we want paid for every minute that we were on the job.

We are quick to pick up on a lack of integrity when we are on the receiving end of it.  We are quick to feel ripped off or uncared for.  We’re quick to voice our complaint and demand that our wrongs be made right.

However, do we hold ourselves to our own standards?  Do we refuse to accept a lack of integrity in our own lives, sacrificing to right our wrongs, or do we instead provide excuses for those areas of lack?

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:33-37

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Now when we think of evil, we think of demons and of the devil and of wicked people with malicious intent.  However, the word here translated to “evil” one is the Greek word ponēros, which means full of labors, annoyances, hardships and being pressed and harassed by labors.

When our lives lack integrity, when our yes is not always yes and our no not always no, hardships happen often.  When we say yes, but can’t live up to our word, the pressure is on!  This isn’t a life of freedom, but a life full of labors, annoyances, and hardships.  It comes from the evil one for sure!

Living a life of integrity is good not only for our testimony about Jesus, but also for our own benefit and health.  When we live with integrity, not only are our lives better, but so are the lives of those around us.

When we each personally strive to live with integrity, something incredible takes place!  As we each live with integrity, we then naturally come together in unity.  As God’s word proclaims:

Psalm 133:1

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Trying to be different things to different people, trying to remember what lie we told to which person, trying to please everybody are all roads that lead straight to a divided life lacking integrity.  There is freedom, peace, and joy when we live with integrity being honest and true; simply being ourselves no matter where we are or who we are around.

Proverbs 11:3

The integrity of the upright guides them,

    but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

If integrity is being complete or undivided, then the lack of integrity is incomplete and divided.  Integrity is a simple and consistent life, duplicity is a complex and divided life.  This is where we get slang terms such as two-faced or two-timing or backstabbing or double-crossing or double-dealing from.  They express a person who lacks integrity and no one likes dealing with them.  Their duplicity is their own undoing and eventually their destruction if they continue in it.

A life of integrity gives freedom, peace, and joy to us and to those around us.  Others know exactly what to expect when they are around us.  We’re not unpredictable land mines being swayed by our own emotions nor by the expectations of those we’re around. 

We’re also not going to walk away from someone and begin to gossip to others about thoughts or opinions that we have of them.  We’re up front with people and use wisdom and discernment to speak with them directly about concerns that we have.  We treat everyone with God’s unconditional love and show no favoritism.

Now, as a disclaimer, living a life of integrity does not necessarily mean living a good, moral life.  You can live a life of integrity and be in complete opposition to God.  Someone can be evil and wicked, but still live with integrity.  Integrity simply means living a whole, undivided, consistent life.  That means that you can be wholly and consistently a jerk to everyone and still be considered to live with integrity.

Unfortunately, a person like this is actually easier to trust because they’ll tell you like it is whether you want their opinion or not.  You always know exactly where they stand and that stand won’t change no matter who you ask about it.

Integrity is not something that we achieve overnight.  Integrity takes work and often requires a sacrifice.  In the long run, however, integrity sown always reaps dividends when reaped.

A practical example of this that I encountered was our master bathroom.  The tile shower enclosure kept growing a layer of mold.  Over time, the tile started to pull away from the wall.  Then, carpenter ants showed up.  The issue couldn’t be ignored anymore!  I assumed that the shower’s water was somehow getting behind the tile surround and that it would be an easy fix.

After removing the tile, I found a vinyl surround.  Under the vinyl surround was paneling.  Under the paneling was drywall.  Under the drywall were rotting studs.  It turns out that where our back porch’s roof met our main roof had developed a small leak.

Now, the roof, part of the trusses, studding, and subfloor all had to be replaced.  The shower ended up being the cheapest and easiest part of the repair.  Instead of a simple shower enclosure replacement, the whole room had to be gutted and rebuilt.  How frustrating it was to see how a small repair made years ago to the roof could have avoided a huge project down the road.  Instead, the problem just got covered up layer by layer.

It’s not uncommon in life to find cheap patches applied to things instead of real repairs made.  Sure, things look better for a while, but the underlying problems remain.  Out of sight and out of mind isn’t always good and ignorance is not always bliss.  What you don’t know can hurt you.

Say your marriage needs some work.  It’s far easier to avoid spending time together than to fix the problem.  If you’re together less, you argue and fight less, and it looks like things are better.  The root issue, however, still remains.  It’s only a matter of time until the pressure is back on and the issues brought back to the surface.

Say your finances need work.  It’s far easier to switch internet providers than to pay the overwhelming debt that you owe to your current provider.  Sure you’re internet is up and running again, but the root issue still remains and that debt has gone nowhere.

Cheap patches and temporary fixes lack integrity and often cost more in the long run than repairing things right in the first place.  Living a life of integrity may cost us here and now, it may require a sacrifice, but it will always pay off in the end.

This morning, we’re starting a new message series entitled, “Habits.”  Through this message series, we’re going to learn about how to do small things consistently, which ultimately leads to a life of integrity.  Of course, we’re going to be challenged toward Godly habits that lead to moral integrity.

Integrity is a life lived one baby step at a time.  When we consistently do right in little things, we’ll naturally do what’s right in big things.  When we begin to discipline ourselves in integrity inwardly in our hearts and minds, we will begin to live with integrity outwardly through our actions and in our relationships.

Integrity is a key to living a fulfilled life of contentment and unlocking the favor of both God and man.

Living a life of moral integrity enables us to walk in the Presence of God, remain under His protection, and maintain hope through any circumstances (1 Chronicles 29:17; Psalm 25:21; Psalm 41:12).

Jesus made living with integrity simple; just let your yes be yes and your no be no. 

KISS – keep it simple, silly.  Integral living is simplicity of living.

Be you wherever you are and whomever you are with.

Together, we are going to live lives of integrity, one habit at a time.