Trust in an Imperfect World
“THE good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.” Do you find this to be true in your case? Be encouraged to know that the apostle Paul had the same problem; yet he was a man of outstanding Christian integrity. Is this not a contradiction? In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul analyzed the problem: “If, now, what I do not wish is what I do, the one working it out is no longer I, but the sin dwelling in me.” To what sin does he refer, and how did he overcome it so as to be a man of integrity?—Romans 7:19, 20.
Earlier in his letter, Paul wrote: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” The “one man” was Adam. (Romans 5:12, 14) Adamic sin—the sin of the first man, Adam—is the cause of the inbred imperfections of the human race and an underlying reason why keeping integrity is a real challenge.
Paul’s view of “original sin,” as it used to be termed, is not widely accepted today because the Bible’s account of creation has been rejected in theological circles in favor of theories of evolution. “Scholars have thrust the whole passage aside” is how one modern commentary on Romans 5:12-14 puts it. Yet a hundred years ago, Bible commentaries consistently explained that “when Adam sinned . . . he tainted with that sin and with its consequences all his progeny.”a
Original Loss of Integrity
Just as the existence of Adam, the first man, is denied by many today, so too is Satan, the Devil, brushed aside as a figment of mythology.b But no less an authority than Jesus Christ tells us that this one “did not stand fast in the truth,” in other words, he was untrustworthy. (John 8:44) And it was at Satan’s instigation that Adam and his wife, Eve, rebelled against Jehovah and broke their integrity under test.—Genesis 3:1-19.
Because we all descend from Adam, we all inherit the tendency to sin. The wise man Solomon stated: “There is no man righteous in the earth that keeps doing good and does not sin.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Still, any human can be trustworthy. How is this possible? Because it does not take a perfect man to keep integrity.
The Basis of Integrity
King David of Israel made many mistakes, including his well-documented adulterous relationship with Bath-sheba. (2 Samuel 11:1-27) David’s many failings served to highlight that he was far from perfect. What, though, did Jehovah see in the man? Addressing David’s son, Solomon, Jehovah said: “Walk before me, just as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and with uprightness.” (1 Kings 9:4) Despite his many mistakes, David’s basic trustworthiness was recognized by Jehovah. Why?
David gave the answer when he told Solomon: “All hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning.” (1 Chronicles 28:9) David made mistakes, but he was humble, and he wanted to do what was right. He consistently accepted reproof and correction—indeed, he asked for it. “Examine me, O Jehovah, and put me to the test; refine my kidneys and my heart” was his request. (Psalm 26:2) And refined David was. The constraints resulting from his sin with Bath-sheba, for example, lasted until the end of his life. Still, David never tried to justify his wrongdoing. (2 Samuel 12:1-12) More important, he never swerved from true worship. For this reason, and because of David’s genuine, heartfelt contrition and repentance, Jehovah was prepared to forgive his sins and accept him as a man of integrity.—See also Psalm 51.
Trustworthy Under Test
Jesus was tested by Satan the Devil in an effort to break his integrity. He had to maintain his integrity through hardships and suffering, in contrast with Adam, whose obedience as a perfect man was tested simply by his being instructed to obey a divine law. In addition, Jesus had the pressure of knowing that upon his integrity rested the redemption of the human family.—Hebrews 5:8, 9.
Satan, determined to break Jesus’ integrity, approached him when Jesus was at his weakest—after he had spent 40 days meditating and fasting in the wilderness. Three times he tempted Jesus—to turn stones into bread; to jump off the temple battlement, presuming that angelic intervention would save him and thus give a miraculous sign to prove his Messiahship; and to accept rulership of all the kingdoms of this world in exchange for just one “act of worship” toward Satan. But Jesus rejected each temptation, maintaining his integrity to Jehovah.—Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13.
The Integrity of Job
Job’s stand, maintaining his integrity under test, is well-known. Interestingly, Job did not understand why disaster came upon him. He did not know that Satan had imputed false motives to him, alleging that Job served God for selfish reasons and claiming that to save his own skin, Job would willingly break his integrity. God allowed Job to undergo some very trying experiences so as to show that Satan was wrong.—Job 1:6-12; 2:1-8.
Three false friends entered the picture. They deliberately misrepresented God’s standards and purposes. Even Job’s wife, also unable to see the issue, failed to encourage her husband in his time of extreme need. (Job 2:9-13) But Job stood firm. “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.
Job’s sterling example, along with the integrity of many other faithful men and women, as recorded in the Bible, proved Satan a liar.
Integrity and the Christian Ministry
Is integrity a quality that Jehovah esteems just for his own satisfaction? No. Integrity has an intrinsic value for us humans. It was for our benefit that Jesus admonished us to ‘love Jehovah our God with our whole heart and with our whole soul and with our whole mind.’ Truly, this is “the greatest and first commandment,” and it takes a man, woman, or child of integrity to keep it. (Matthew 22:36-38) What is involved, and what are the rewards?
A man of integrity can be trusted, not just by his fellow man but, more important, by God. His purity of heart is seen in his actions; he is free from hypocrisy. He is not devious or corrupt. The apostle Paul put it this way: “We have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning, neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.”—2 Corinthians 4:2.
Notice that Paul mentions attitudes that have to do with the Christian ministry. How can a Christian minister serve others if his hands are not pure, if he is not a man of integrity? The head of an Irish religious order who recently resigned well illustrates the point. He admitted that he “allowed a paedophile priest to continue working with children long after his child abuse became known,” according to The Independent newspaper. The account explained that the abuse extended over 24 years. The priest was jailed for four years, but think of the suffering imposed upon the children he assaulted during those years because his overseer lacked the moral integrity to take action!
The apostle John was a fearless man. On account of their fiery enthusiasm, Jesus called him and his brother James “Sons of Thunder.” (Mark 3:17) A man of outstanding integrity, John, along with Peter, explained to the Jewish rulers that he ‘could not stop speaking’ about the things he had seen and heard while he was with Jesus. John was also one of the apostles who said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 4:19, 20; 5:27-32.
It seems that when John was well into his 90’s, he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos “for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9) At his age, he may have thought that his ministry had ended. But only a man of his integrity could be entrusted with the assignment to pen the thrilling vision of Revelation. In this, John was faithful. What a privilege that was for him! And there was more to come. Later, apparently in the vicinity of Ephesus, he wrote his Gospel account and three letters. Such grand privileges to cap 70 years of faithful, trustworthy service!
To be a person of integrity in a general way gives deep satisfaction. To be trustworthy in God’s sight brings everlasting rewards. Today, “a great crowd” of true worshipers is being prepared to enter a new world of peace and harmony, with the prospect of everlasting life. (Revelation 7:9) Integrity in the vital matters of morality and worship must be upheld, despite the trials of this system of things and the many challenges Satan may bring to bear. Be assured that in the power Jehovah imparts, you can succeed!—Philippians 4:13.
Speaking both of the present and of the future, the psalmist David reassures all of us when he says, in a prayer of thanks to Jehovah: “As for me, because of my integrity you have upheld me, and you will set me before your face to time indefinite. Blessed be Jehovah . . . Amen and Amen.”—Psalm 41:12, 13.
a Comment in The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, according to the Authorised Version, with a brief commentary by various authors.
b The name Satan means “Resister.” “Devil” means “Slanderer.”
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Despite his mistakes, David proved worthy of trust
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Jesus left us the finest example of trustworthiness
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Being trustworthy brings great satisfaction