Why Keep Your Integrity?
“Judge me, O Jehovah, . . . according to my integrity.”—PS. 7:8.
1, 2. What are some common situations that present challenges to a Christian’s integrity?
PICTURE three scenarios: A boy is facing some of his schoolmates. They are trying to provoke him into losing his temper, perhaps to curse or to fight. Will he retaliate, or will he restrain himself and walk away? A husband at home alone is doing some research on the Internet. A box appears on his computer screen, advertising a lewd Web site. Will he be tempted and go to that site, or will he make sure that he avoids it? A Christian woman is conversing with a small group when the talk turns negative, becoming hurtful gossip about a sister in the congregation. Will she share in that, or will she try to change the subject?
2 Varied though those situations are, they have something in common. They all involve the struggle to keep integrity as a Christian. Do you have your own integrity in mind as you face your concerns, needs, and goals in life? On a day-to-day basis, people think about their appearance, their health, the challenges of making a living, the ups and downs of their friendships, perhaps even romance. We may give such concerns considerable attention. What, though, particularly matters to Jehovah as he searches through our heart? (Ps. 139:23, 24) It is our integrity.
3. Jehovah bestows what privilege on us, and what will we consider in this article?
3 Jehovah, the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present,” has bestowed on each of us a variety of gifts. (Jas. 1:17) Thanks to him, we have such gifts as a body, a mind, a measure of health, and various abilities. (1 Cor. 4:7) However, Jehovah does not simply force us to display integrity. He lets us choose for ourselves whether we will develop this quality. (Deut. 30:19) We need, then, to examine what integrity is. We will also consider three reasons why this quality is so profoundly important.
What Is Integrity?
4. What does integrity involve, and what may we learn from Jehovah’s law regarding animal sacrifices?
4 Many people seem to have a hazy idea of what integrity is. For example, when politicians boast of their integrity, they often seem to mean honesty. That quality is important, but it is only a part of integrity. As used in the Bible, integrity involves moral completeness, soundness. The Hebrew words relating to “integrity” come from a root meaning sound, whole, or faultless. One of these words is used regarding the sacrifices to be offered to Jehovah. An animal for sacrifice gained his approval only if it was sound, or whole. (Read Leviticus 22:19, 20.) Jehovah strongly censured those who flouted his direction by offering lame, sick, or blind animals for sacrifice.—Mal. 1:6-8.
5, 6. (a) What examples show that we often value that which is whole, or complete? (b) When it comes to imperfect humans, does integrity mean perfection? Explain.
5 The idea of seeking and valuing that which is whole, or complete, is not strange. Imagine, for instance, a book collector who finds a precious volume after a long search, only to discover that it is missing several vital pages. Disappointed, he may put it back on the shelf. Or picture a woman walking on a beach, collecting some of the shells cast ashore by the waves. Fascinated by the variety and beauty of these creations, she now and again stoops to examine one. Which ones does she keep? The ones that are whole, intact. Similarly, God is seeking people who have this quality of wholeness, or completeness.—2 Chron. 16:9.
6 You may wonder, though, whether integrity demands perfection. Because we are damaged by sin and imperfection, we may tend to think of ourselves as being a bit like an incomplete volume or a damaged shell. Is that how you feel at times? Rest assured that Jehovah does not expect us to be perfect in the absolute sense. He never expects more of us than we can do.* (Ps. 103:14; Jas. 3:2) Still, he does expect us to keep integrity. Is there a difference, then, between perfection and integrity? Yes. To illustrate: A young man loves a young woman whom he is going to marry. He would be foolish to expect her to be perfect. Yet, he would be wise to expect her to be wholehearted in her love for him, that is, to have romantic love for him alone. In a comparable way, Jehovah is “a God exacting exclusive devotion.” (Ex. 20:5) He expects us, not to be perfect, but to love him wholeheartedly, giving worship to him alone.
7, 8. (a) Jesus set what example regarding integrity? (b) What is the essence of integrity in the Scriptural sense?
7 We might be reminded of Jesus’ answer when he was asked what was the most important of all laws. (Read Mark 12:28-30.) Not only did Jesus give the answer; he lived it. He set the ultimate example in loving Jehovah with his whole mind, heart, soul, and strength. He showed that integrity is expressed, not in mere words, but in positive actions that spring from pure motives. Our keeping integrity calls on us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.—1 Pet. 2:21.
8 Here, then, is the essence of our integrity in the Scriptural sense: wholehearted devotion to one heavenly Person, Jehovah God, and to his expressed will and purpose. Keeping integrity means that in our day-to-day life, we will seek above all to please Jehovah God. Our priorities in life will reflect his priorities. Let us consider three reasons why this is so important.
1. Our Integrity and the Issue of Sovereignty
9. How does our personal integrity relate to the issue of universal sovereignty?
9 Jehovah’s sovereignty does not depend on our integrity. His sovereignty is just, eternal, and universal. It will always be so, regardless of what any creatures say or do. However, God’s sovereignty has been grossly maligned in the heavens and on the earth. His rulership thus needs to be vindicated—confirmed as right, just, and loving—before all intelligent creatures. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we love to discuss God’s universal sovereignty with anyone who will listen. How, though, can we take our own stand on the issue? How do we show that we choose Jehovah as our own Sovereign? By keeping integrity.
10. What charge has Satan made regarding the integrity of humans, and how would you like to respond?
10 Consider how your integrity is involved. Satan has in essence claimed that no human will stand up for God’s sovereignty, that no one will serve Jehovah out of unselfish love. In front of a vast assemblage of spirit creatures, the Devil said to Jehovah: “Skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul.” (Job 2:4) Notice that Satan did not limit that slur to the righteous man Job but stated it as a general rule regarding mankind. The Bible accordingly calls Satan “the accuser of our brothers.” (Rev. 12:10) He taunts Jehovah with the claim that Christians—including you—will not remain faithful. Satan claims that you would betray Jehovah in order to save your own skin. How do you feel about such charges being heaped upon you? Would you not welcome an opportunity to prove Satan a liar? By keeping your integrity, you can do just that.
11, 12. (a) What examples illustrate how our decisions in day-to-day matters relate to the issue of personal integrity? (b) Why is keeping integrity a privilege?
11 The issue of your integrity thus makes day-to-day conduct and choices quite important. Consider again the three scenarios we mentioned earlier. What would be the course of integrity? The boy being taunted by his schoolmates is sorely tempted to lash out at them, but he remembers this admonition: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” (Rom. 12:19) He walks away. The husband who is using the Internet could look at sexually arousing material, but he recalls the principle reflected in Job’s words: “A covenant I have concluded with my eyes. So how could I show myself attentive to a virgin?” (Job 31:1) Similarly, the man refuses to let his eyes rest on unsavory images, avoiding such material as if it were poison. The woman conversing in a group where she might hear a bit of hurtful gossip holds back, recalling the direction: “Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding.” (Rom. 15:2) The gossip she could repeat is not upbuilding. It would not reflect well on her Christian sister; nor would it please her Father. So she controls her tongue and changes the subject.
12 In each of those cases, the Christian makes a choice that, in effect, says: ‘Jehovah is my Ruler. I will try to do what pleases him in this matter.’ Do you view your personal choices and decisions in that light? If you do, you can truly live up to the heartwarming words recorded at Proverbs 27:11: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” What a privilege we have in making God’s heart rejoice! Is it not well worth our every effort to keep our integrity?
2. The Basis for Divine Judgment
13. How do the words of Job and David show that integrity is the basis on which Jehovah judges us?
13 We see that integrity enables us to take our stand for Jehovah’s sovereignty. It is thus the basis on which God can judge us. Job well understood this truth. (Read Job 31:6.) Job knew that God weighs all mankind in “accurate scales,” using His perfect standard of justice to gauge our integrity. David similarly said: “Jehovah himself will pass sentence on the peoples. Judge me, O Jehovah, according to my righteousness and according to my integrity in me. . . . And God as righteous is testing out heart and kidneys.” (Ps. 7:8, 9) We know that God can look into the very depths of the inner person, the figurative “heart and kidneys.” We need to remember, though, what he is looking for. As David said, Jehovah judges us according to our integrity.
14. Why should we never assume that our imperfect, sinful nature prevents us from keeping our integrity?
14 Imagine Jehovah God searching the billions of hearts of mankind today. (1 Chron. 28:9) How often does he find someone keeping Christian integrity? It is relatively rare indeed! However, we should not assume that we are too flawed to maintain integrity. On the contrary, we have good reason to trust, as did David and Job, that Jehovah will find us maintaining integrity, imperfect though we may be. Remember, perfection does not guarantee our keeping integrity. Only three perfect humans have walked this earth, and two, Adam and Eve, failed to keep integrity. Still, many millions of imperfect humans have succeeded in doing so. You can too.
3. Essential to Our Hope
15. How did David show that integrity is essential to our hope for the future?
15 Because integrity is at the core of Jehovah’s judgment of us, it is essential to our hope for the future. David knew this to be true. (Read Psalm 41:12.) He cherished the hope of receiving God’s favorable attention forever. Like true Christians today, David hoped to live forever, continuing to draw ever closer to Jehovah God while serving him. David saw the role that his maintaining integrity would play if he was to see the fulfillment of that hope. Similarly, Jehovah upholds us, teaches us, guides us, and blesses us as we keep our integrity.
16, 17. (a) Why are you resolved always to hold fast to your integrity? (b) What questions will the next article discuss?
16 Hope is essential to our present happiness. It can give us the joy we need to get through difficult times. Hope can protect our thinking too. Remember, the Bible likens hope to a helmet. (1 Thess. 5:8) As a helmet protects a soldier’s head in battle, hope protects our mind from the negative, pessimistic thinking Satan promotes in this dying old world. Life is poor, indeed, when we are bereft of hope. We need to examine ourselves honestly, carefully considering the state of our own integrity and the hope linked to it. Do not forget that by keeping integrity, you are upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty and safeguarding your precious hope for the future. May you always hold fast to your integrity!
17 Since integrity is so important, we need to consider some further questions. How do we build integrity? How can we maintain it? And what could be done if someone for a time did not keep it? The next article will take up these questions.
Jesus did say: “You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) He evidently understood that even imperfect humans can be complete, or perfect, in a relative sense. We can fulfill the command to love others generously, thereby pleasing God. Jehovah, however, is perfect in the absolute sense. When applied to him, the term “integrity” also involves perfection.—Ps. 18:30.
How Would You Answer?
• What is integrity?
• How does integrity relate to the issue of universal sovereignty?
• How does integrity provide a basis for our hope?
[Pictures on page 5]
Everyday life presents many challenges to our integrity