Integrity

Preaching and Worship Resources about Integrity

Integrity is personal wholeness, soundness, and undividedness.

In Scripture

"As for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised your father David" (1 Kings 9:4 - 5).

"The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me" (Ps. 7:8).

"Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully" (Ps. 24:3 - 4).

"I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house" (Ps. 101:2).

"Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever follows perverse ways will be found out" (Prov. 10:9).

"Better to be poor and walk in integrity than to be crooked in one's ways even though rich" (Prov. 28:6).

"One who walks in integrity will be safe, but whoever follows crooked ways will fall into the Pit" (Prov. 28:18).

"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Mic. 6:8).

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matt 5:8).

"In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt 7:12).

"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much" (Luke 16:10).

"The aim of instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5).

"Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us" (Titus 2:7 - 8).

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8).

Points to Ponder

Purity of Heart The Scriptures cited above associate integrity with uprightness, obedience to God's law, safety, security, humility, purity of heart, faithfulness, love, and blamelessness. Most of these are partial characterizations of integrity, but "purity of heart" is a synonym. The pure in heart are relatively free of dividedness, compartmentalization, dishonesty, mixed motives, and hypocrisy. They are all of a piece. They ring true wherever you tap them. They are just "this" through and through, not "this and that." They have the wholeness, the soundness that make them an "entirety."

"Exhibit A" of Wisdom The 1 Kings and Proverbs passages cited above suggest that integrity is "Exhibit A" of wisdom. In Scripture, wisdom is the knowledge of how things work within God's world plus the knack of fitting one's life smoothly into God's scheme of things. The wise are always "in season." They go with the flow — not of a corrupt society, but of God's purposes for healthy life. They therefore endure through peril. They are established. They are fit to climb "the hill of the Lord" and therefore to enjoy sweet communion with God, who is their life's blood. They "walk in integrity," suggesting that integrity is their persistent habit, their way of being in the world.

Free of Corruption People of integrity are straight, true, and well-integrated. They are therefore free of the jams that our corrupt selves are always falling into. People with integrity don't have to try to remember their lies, and which ones they told to which people. They seldom run afoul of tax authorities. They lack pretentiousness. They don't puff themselves so they don't fear getting unpuffed. If they do get rebuked, it's for loving justice. They don't have to writhe in explaining why they have contradicted themselves once again. In communion with God they constantly test their motives. They have "spiritual hygiene," i.e., the wholeness of motive, purpose, and character typical of someone who fits snugly into God's broad design for shalom.

Spiritual Self-Discernment Christians with integrity aren't always serene. Spiritually healthy people know very well the drag of sloth and doubt. They know about spiritual depression. They know what it is like to feel keenly that the world has been emptied of God. That is why a spiritually sound person disciplines her life by such spiritual exercises as prayer, fasting, confession, worship, and reflective walks through cemeteries. She visits boring persons and tries to take an interest in them, ponders the lives of saints and compares them to her own, and spends time and money on just and charitable causes.

Integrity and Virtues A person of spiritual hygiene covets the virtues and character strengths that Christians since Paul have always prized: compassion, for example, and patience. She seeks these and other excellences — endurance, hope, humility, forthrightness, hospitality. She then tries to work them into a regular practice routine, always aware that in order to grow in these excellences she needs both to strive for them and to fail in her striving. More specifically, Robert C. Roberts says, "moral striving is both an essential part of spiritual growth . . . and a ground of self-despair which sensitizes the individual to the grace of Jesus Christ." She needs to keep on through striving and failure and growth in order to become a free and joyful contributor to shalom.

Integrity and Forthrightness People of integrity will be forthright about what they are doing, and if their righteousness breaks an unjust law they will publically accept the law's penalty, as Martin Luther King Jr. did in the civil rights movement. This was a huge part of his moral authority and a validation of his cause. King used to say, "As a Christian I naturally spend a certain amount of time in jail." For an intelligent treatment of integrity by a Yale law professor who is a publicly acknowledged Christian, see Stephen L. Carter's Integrity . Among its other virtues, Carter's book explains that honesty is ingredient in integrity, but integrity is a much broader reality, including "discerning what is right and wrong, acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost, and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right and wrong." Of course, King is one of Carter's main exhibits in this connection.

Communal Integrity Not just persons, but groups too may have coherence, wholeness, and integrity. This may be true of the church, for example. But that would require a separate treatment.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.