Moral soundness, completeness, one’s being blameless and faultless.
The Hebrew terms relating to integrity (tom, tum·mahʹ, tam, ta·mimʹ) have the root meaning of that which is “complete” or “whole.” (Compare Le 25:30; Jos 10:13; Pr 1:12.) Ta·mimʹ is used several times to refer to physical completeness, or soundness, and freedom from impairment, for example, regarding sacrificial animals. (Ex 12:5; 29:1; Le 3:6) But more frequently these terms describe moral soundness or blamelessness.
When applied to God, ta·mimʹ may properly be translated “perfect,” as in describing Jehovah’s activity and works, his way, knowledge, and law. (De 32:4; Job 36:4; 37:16; Ps 18:30; 19:7) All these divine qualities and expressions manifest such unmatchable completeness and fullness, are so sound and free from defect, or fault, that they clearly identify their Source as the one true God.—Ro 1:20; see PERFECTION.
Significance of Human Integrity. In a few cases the Hebrew tom conveys simply the idea of honest motive, innocence as to wrong intention. (Compare Ge 20:5, 6; 2Sa 15:11.) But mainly these related Hebrew terms describe unswerving devotion to righteousness. Biblical usage and examples emphasize unbreakable devotion to a person, Jehovah God, and to his expressed will and purpose as the course of vital importance.
Involved in the supreme issue. The first human pair were given the opportunity to manifest integrity in Eden. The restriction regarding the tree of knowledge put to the test their devotion to their Creator. Under the pressure of outside influence from God’s Adversary and his appeal to selfishness, they gave way to disobedience. Their shame, their reluctance to face their Creator, and their lack of candor in responding to his questions all gave evidence of their lack of integrity. (Compare Ps 119:1, 80.) Obviously, however, they were not the first to break integrity, since the spirit creature who led them into a rebellious course had already done so.—Ge 3:1-19; compare his course with the dirge pronounced against the king of Tyre at Eze 28:12-15; see SATAN.
Satan’s rebellion, visibly initiated in Eden, produced an issue of universal importance—that of the rightfulness of God’s sovereignty over all his creatures, his right to require full obedience of them. Since the issue was not one of superiority of power but, rather, was a moral issue, it could not be settled merely by the exercise of power, as by God’s immediately crushing Satan and the human pair out of existence. This fact is an aid in understanding why wickedness and its author, Satan, have been allowed to continue so long. (See WICKEDNESS.) Since God’s Adversary first drew upon humans for support and endorsement of his rebel course (the earliest evidence for any siding with Satan on the part of spirit sons of God not appearing until sometime prior to the Flood; Ge 6:1-5; compare 2Pe 2:4, 5), this made the question of man’s integrity to God’s sovereign will an essential part of the overall issue (though Jehovah’s sovereignty is not itself dependent on the integrity of his creatures). Proof of this is seen in the case of Job.
Job. Job, who evidently lived in the period between the death of Joseph and the time of Moses, is described as a man who had “proved to be blameless [Heb., tam] and upright, and fearing God and turning aside from bad.” (Job 1:1; see JOB.) That human integrity forms part of the issue between Jehovah God and Satan is clear from God’s questioning his Adversary about Job when Satan appeared during an angelic assembly in the courts of heaven. Satan imputed false motive to Job’s worship of God, alleging that Job served not out of pure devotion but for selfish benefits. He thereby placed in question Job’s integrity to God. Permitted to divest Job of his vast possessions and even of his children, Satan failed to crack Job’s integrity. (Job 1:6–2:3) He then claimed that Job was selfishly willing to endure the loss of possessions and children as long as he could save his own skin. (Job 2:4, 5) Thereafter stricken with a painful, consuming disease and subjected to dissuasion from his own wife as well as to disparaging criticism and slurs from companions who misrepresented God’s standards and purposes (Job 2:6-13; 22:1, 5-11), Job’s response was that he would not deny having been a man of integrity. “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself! On my justness I have laid hold, and I shall not let it go; my heart will not taunt me for any of my days.” (Job 27:5, 6) His maintaining integrity demonstrated that God’s Adversary was a liar.
Satan’s challenging statements in Job’s case show he held the position that all persons could be drawn away from God’s side, that none served out of a purely unselfish motive. Thus humans, as well as God’s spirit sons, have the remarkable privilege of contributing to the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty by a course of integrity to him. In doing so they also sanctify his name. The ones “blameless in their way are a pleasure” to Jehovah.—Pr 11:20; contrast this with the false view advanced by Eliphaz at Job 22:1-3.
Basis for divine judgment. Having a favorable judgment from God is dependent on the creature’s integrity-keeping course. (Ps 18:23-25) As King David wrote: “Jehovah himself will pass sentence on the peoples. Judge me, O Jehovah, according to my righteousness and according to my integrity in me. Please, may the badness of wicked ones come to an end, and may you establish the righteous one.” (Ps 7:8, 9; compare Pr 2:21, 22.) Suffering Job expressed the confidence that “[Jehovah] will weigh me in accurate scales and God will get to know my integrity.” (Job 31:6) Job thereafter lists about a dozen examples from actual life that, if true of him, would have demonstrated a lack of integrity.—Job 31:7-40.
What does integrity keeping include in the case of imperfect humans?
Since all men are imperfect and unable to measure up perfectly to God’s standards, it is evident that their integrity does not mean perfection of action or of speech. Rather, the Scriptures show it means wholeness or completeness of heart devotion. David, through weakness, committed several serious wrongs, but he, nevertheless, ‘walked with integrity of heart’ (1Ki 9:4), for he accepted reproof and corrected his way. He thereby proved that his heart still retained genuine love for Jehovah God. (Ps 26:1-3, 6, 8, 11) As David later told his son Solomon: “Know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul; for all hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning.” Solomon’s heart, however, did not “prove to be complete with Jehovah his God like the heart of David his father.”—1Ch 28:9; 1Ki 11:4; the word “complete” in these two texts is from another Hebrew term, sha·lemʹ, as at Pr 11:1; 1Ki 15:14.
Integrity is therefore not restricted to any one aspect of human conduct; it does not apply just to matters obviously “religious.” For God’s servant it is a way of life in which the individual ‘walks,’ constantly searching to know Jehovah’s will. (Ps 119:1-3) David shepherded the nation of Israel “according to the integrity of his heart,” both in matters directly relating to Jehovah’s worship and in his conduct of governmental affairs. He also desired that those around him and those acting as his ministers likewise be persons of integrity, “walking in a faultless way.” (Ps 78:72; 101:2-7) One ‘proves himself faultless’ before God over a period of time, as did Noah, Abraham, and others.—Ge 6:9; 17:1; 2Sa 22:24.
Integrity requires uncompromising loyalty to God and adherence to righteousness, not merely under favorable conditions or circumstances, but under all conditions and at all times. After stressing that only the integrity-keeper, “speaking the truth in his heart,” is acceptable to Jehovah, the psalmist says of such a one that “he has sworn to what is bad for himself, and yet he does not alter,” that is, even if something he has solemnly agreed to turns out to be apparently against his personal interests, he still stays true to his agreement. (Ps 15:1-5; contrast Ro 1:31; 1Ti 1:10.) Integrity, then, is most evident when the individual’s devotion is under test and he is pressured to abandon his righteous course. Though made a laughingstock by opposers (Job 12:4; compare Jer 20:7) or made the object of their bitter speech (Ps 64:3, 4), hatred, and violent persecution (Pr 29:10; Am 5:10), whether in sickness or in distressful adversity, a person must ‘hold fast his integrity’ as did Job, no matter what the cost.—Job 2:3.
Such an integrity-keeping course is possible, not by the individual’s personal moral strength, but only through deep faith and trust in Jehovah and His saving power. (Ps 25:21) God’s promise is that he will be a “shield” and “stronghold,” guarding the way of those walking in integrity. (Pr 2:6-8; 10:29; Ps 41:12) Their constant concern for gaining Jehovah’s approval brings stability to their lives, enabling them to follow a straight course to their goal. (Ps 26:1-3; Pr 11:5; 28:18) Though, as Job perplexedly observed, the blameless may suffer because of the rule of the wicked and may die along with the wicked, Jehovah assures that he is aware of the life of the faultless person and guarantees that such a person’s inheritance will continue, his future will be peaceful, and he will come into the possession of good. (Job 9:20-22; Ps 37:18, 19, 37; 84:11; Pr 28:10) As in Job’s case, it is being a man of integrity, rather than one’s wealth, that makes one a person of genuine worth, meriting respect. (Pr 19:1; 28:6) Children privileged to have such a person for a parent are to be counted happy (Pr 20:7), receiving a splendid legacy in their father’s life example, enjoying a share in his good name and the respect he gained.
In addition to the examples of Job and David, the Hebrew Scriptures are replete with other examples of men of integrity. Abraham showed unswerving loyalty to God in his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. (Ge 22:1-12) Daniel and his three companions provide sterling illustrations of integrity under test, in youth and in later life. (Da 1:8-17; 3:13-23; 6:4-23) At Hebrews chapter 11, the apostle Paul lists a long line of men of pre-Christian times who through faith displayed integrity under a wide variety of difficult circumstances.—Note particularly vss 33-38.
Integrity in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Whereas no exact word for “integrity” appears in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the idea pervades this entire portion of the Bible. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, gave the finest example of integrity and of supreme trust in his heavenly Father’s strength and care. He thereby was “made perfect” for his position as High Priest, as well as Anointed King of the heavenly Kingdom, one greater than David’s. (Heb 5:7-9; 4:15; 7:26-28; Ac 2:34, 35) Integrity is embraced in the commandment Jesus singled out as the greatest of all—loving Jehovah God with one’s whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Mt 22:36-38) His injunction that “you must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48) also stressed a completeness of one’s devotion to righteousness. (The Greek terms for perfection convey the idea of that which has been ‘brought to completion’ and so are somewhat similar in meaning to the Hebrew terms already discussed.)
Jesus’ teachings emphasized purity of heart, singleness of outlook and intent, freedom from hypocrisy—all these being qualities that characterize integrity. (Mt 5:8; 6:1-6, 16-18, 22, 23; Lu 11:34-36) The apostle Paul showed the same concern as had David and earlier servants of God for proving blameless and faultless. He was free from any charge of corruption or deviousness in his ministry and in all his dealings with others.—2Co 4:1, 2; 6:3-10; 8:20, 21; 1Th 1:3-6.
Perseverance in a God-given commission in the face of opposition, and endurance of privations, persecution, and suffering for adhering to a course of godly devotion, also marked Paul and other early Christians as persons of integrity.—Ac 5:27-41; 2Co 11:23-27.