Will You Hold Fast to Your Integrity?
“Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!”—JOB 27:5.
1, 2. We need to engage in what building project, and what questions will we consider?
IMAGINE that you are looking over the plans for a house. You marvel at the practicality of the design. You delight in thinking of the ways in which the house could benefit you and your family. Would you not agree, though, that those plans and any thought you might give them would do little good unless you actually built the house, moved in, and then maintained it?
2 Similarly, integrity may impress us as a vital quality that will do us and those we love a great deal of good. But thinking approvingly about integrity benefits us little unless we build and maintain our Christian integrity. In today’s world, literal building projects often prove costly. (Luke 14:28, 29) Likewise, building integrity costs time and effort, yet it is well worth it. So let us discuss three questions: How can we be people of integrity? How can we maintain our Christian integrity? What can be done if someone for a time did not keep his integrity?
How Can We Be People of Integrity?
3, 4. (a) In what ways does Jehovah help us build integrity? (b) How can we build integrity, as exemplified by Jesus?
3 We noted in the preceding article that Jehovah dignifies us with the privilege of deciding whether we will be people of integrity. Happily, though, he does not simply leave us on our own in the matter. He teaches us how to build this precious quality, and he gives us generously of his holy spirit, which helps us apply his teachings. (Luke 11:13) He even provides spiritual protection for those who endeavor to walk in integrity.—Prov. 2:7.
4 How has Jehovah taught us to be integrity keepers? Above all, by sending his Son, Jesus, to the earth. Jesus lived a course of perfect obedience. He “became obedient as far as death.” (Phil. 2:8) In everything that he did, Jesus obeyed his heavenly Father, even when it was extremely difficult. “Let, not my will, but yours take place,” he said to Jehovah. (Luke 22:42) Each of us does well to ask himself, ‘Do I have a similarly obedient spirit?’ By pursuing a course of obedience with the right motive, we will be integrity keepers. Consider some areas of life in which obedience is especially important.
5, 6. (a) How did David stress the importance of keeping integrity even when we are not seen by other humans? (b) Christians today face what challenges to integrity when alone?
5 We need to obey Jehovah even when we seem to be alone. The psalmist David noted the importance of integrity on occasions when he may have been alone. (Read Psalm 101:2.) As king, David led a very public life. There were no doubt many times when he had hundreds, even thousands, of observers. (Compare Psalm 26:12.) Keeping integrity at such times was important, for the king needed to set a good example for his people. (Deut. 17:18, 19) However, David learned that when he might have been alone—‘inside his house’—he still needed to walk in integrity. What about us?
6 At Psalm 101:3, we find David’s words: “I shall not set in front of my eyes any good-for-nothing thing.” There are many opportunities today to set in front of our eyes good-for-nothing things, particularly when we are alone. Access to the Internet has presented many with a challenge in this regard. It is easy to be lured into looking at suggestive, even pornographic, material. But is doing so an act of obedience to the God who inspired David to pen those words? Pornography is harmful, for it inflames wrong and greedy desires, damages the conscience, erodes marriages, and degrades everyone involved.—Prov. 4:23; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess. 4:3-5.
7. What principle can help us to keep integrity when we are alone?
7 Of course, no servant of Jehovah is ever truly alone. Our Father lovingly watches over us. (Read Psalm 11:4.) How pleased Jehovah must be when he sees you resisting temptation! By your doing so, you heed the warning implicit in the words of Jesus found at Matthew 5:28. By all means, be determined not to look at images that would tempt you to do wrong. Do not trade your precious integrity for the shameful act of looking at or reading pornography!
8, 9. (a) Daniel and his companions faced what challenge to their integrity? (b) How do young Christians today delight Jehovah and their fellow Christians?
8 We can also be integrity keepers by obeying Jehovah when we are among unbelievers. Think of Daniel and his three companions. As youths, they were taken as captives to Babylon. There, surrounded by unbelievers who knew little or nothing of Jehovah, the four Hebrews were put under pressure to eat delicacies that God’s Law forbade. Those boys might easily have rationalized a course of compromise. After all, their parents, the elders, and the priests could not see what the four of them were doing. Who would know? Jehovah himself would. So they took a firm stand and obeyed him despite the pressure and the risk.—Dan. 1:3-9.
9 Around the world, young Witnesses of Jehovah are following a similar course, holding to God’s standards for Christians and refusing to give in to harmful peer pressure. When you young ones refuse to get involved in drugs, violence, cursing, immorality, and other wrongs, you are obeying Jehovah. As you do, you are keeping your integrity. You benefit yourself, and you delight Jehovah and your fellow Christians!—Ps. 110:3.
10. (a) What wrong views of fornication have led some youths to compromise their integrity? (b) How does integrity lead us to behave as respects the danger of fornication?
10 We also need to be obedient when dealing with members of the opposite sex. We know that God’s Word forbids fornication. However, it is easy to let an obedient spirit lapse into a permissive one. For instance, some youths have engaged in oral or anal sex or mutual masturbation, rationalizing that these acts are not so bad because they think they are technically not “having sex.” Such youths forget—or may choose to ignore—that the Bible word for fornication includes all those practices, wrong conduct for which one might be disfellowshipped.* Worse, though, they ignore the need for integrity. Since we are striving to keep our integrity, we do not look for loopholes. We do not try to get as close as we can to sin without being punished. We do not focus solely on the judicial consequences that an act of wrongdoing might bring. Rather, we focus on doing what will please Jehovah, avoiding what will hurt his feelings. Rather than seeing how close we can get to sin, we keep far away from it and “flee from fornication.” (1 Cor. 6:18) We thus show that we are people of genuine integrity.
How Can We Maintain Our Integrity?
11. Why is each act of obedience significant? Illustrate.
11 We build integrity by obedience, so we maintain integrity by enduring in an obedient course. A single act of obedience may seem insignificant—a minor matter. Yet, such obedient acts add up over time. To illustrate: A single brick may seem insignificant, but if we carefully place many of them together, we can build a fine home. So by continuing to add to our acts of obedience, we maintain our integrity.—Luke 16:10.
12. How did David set an example of maintaining integrity in the face of mistreatment and injustice?
12 Our integrity is especially evident when we endure in the face of hardships, mistreatment, or injustice. Consider the Biblical example of David. As a young man, he endured persecution from a king who was supposed to represent Jehovah’s authority. King Saul, however, had lost Jehovah’s favor and was bitterly jealous of David, whom God approved. Yet, Saul remained in authority for a time and used Israel’s army to hound David. Jehovah allowed this injustice to continue for some years. Was David embittered against God? Did he decide that it was no use enduring? On the contrary. He maintained the greatest respect for Saul’s position as God’s anointed, refusing to strike back at Saul when an opportunity presented itself.—1 Sam. 24:2-7.
13. How can we maintain our integrity if we are hurt or offended?
13 How powerfully David’s example speaks to us today! We are part of a worldwide congregation of imperfect humans, any one of whom may wrong us or even become unfaithful. Of course, we are blessed to live at a time when Jehovah’s people as a whole can never be corrupted. (Isa. 54:17) Still, how will we respond should an individual let us down or hurt our feelings? If we were to let bitterness toward a fellow worshipper poison our heart, our integrity to God could be compromised. The conduct of others never creates an excuse for our becoming bitter toward God or for abandoning a faithful course. (Ps. 119:165) Enduring even in the face of trials will help us to maintain our integrity.
14. Integrity-keepers respond in what way to organizational changes and doctrinal refinements?
14 We can also maintain integrity by avoiding a fault-finding, critical spirit. That means, of course, being loyal to Jehovah. He is blessing his people now more than ever. Pure worship has never in all of history been so exalted on earth. (Isa. 2:2-4) When adjustments are made in explanation of Bible texts or in how things are done, we want to accept them. We are delighted to see evidence that the spiritual light is still increasing. (Prov. 4:18) If we find it hard to understand a change, we ask Jehovah to help us to comprehend the point. Meanwhile, we endure in an obedient course, keeping our integrity.
What if Someone Does Not Keep Integrity?
15. Who only can take away your integrity?
15 That is a sobering question, is it not? As we learned in the preceding article, integrity is absolutely essential. Without it, we have no relationship with Jehovah and no real hope. Keep this in mind: There is only one person in the universe who can take away your integrity. That person is you. Job understood that truth well. He said: “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!” (Job 27:5) If you have the same determination and if you stay close to Jehovah, you need never lose hold of your integrity.—Jas. 4:8.
16, 17. (a) If a person falls into serious sin, what is the wrong course to take? (b) What is the right course to take?
16 Still, some fail to maintain their integrity. Even as occurred when the apostles were still present, some fall into a practice of serious sin. If that happened with you, is the situation hopeless? Not necessarily. What can be done? Let us first consider what not to do. The human tendency is to conceal a wrong from the view of parents, fellow Christians, or elders. However, the Bible reminds us: “He that is covering over his transgressions will not succeed, but he that is confessing and leaving them will be shown mercy.” (Prov. 28:13) Those who seek to cover over sins make a tragic mistake, for there can be no concealing of anything from God. (Read Hebrews 4:13.) Some even try to lead a double life, pretending to serve Jehovah while carrying on a course of sin. Such a life is devoid of integrity—it is, in fact, the very opposite of integrity. Jehovah is not pleased with acts of worship carried out by individuals who are concealing serious sins. On the contrary, such hypocrisy angers him.—Prov. 21:27; Isa. 1:11-16.
17 When a Christian gets involved in serious wrongdoing, the right course is clear. It is time to seek the help of Christian elders. Jehovah has an arrangement in place for dealing with cases of serious spiritual sickness. (Read James 5:14.) Do not let fear of possible discipline or correction keep you from pursuing your spiritual health. After all, would a wise person let the passing pain of an injection or even an operation keep him from addressing a life-threatening health problem?—Heb. 12:11.
18, 19. (a) How does David’s example show that integrity can be regained? (b) What is your determination regarding your integrity?
18 Is there hope for full recovery? Can integrity be regained once it is lost? Consider again the example of David. He fell into serious sin. He looked covetously at another man’s wife, committed adultery, and arranged that the innocent mate be killed. It is hard to think of David at that time as a man of integrity, is it not? Yet, was his situation hopeless? David needed and received strong discipline. Then, his sincere repentance led Jehovah to extend mercy. David learned from the discipline and regained his integrity by obeying God and enduring in that course. David’s life exemplified what we read at Proverbs 24:16: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up.” The result? Consider what Jehovah stated to Solomon about David after he died. (Read 1 Kings 9:4.) God remembered David as a man of integrity. Jehovah can, indeed, cleanse repentant sinners from the stain of even serious sins.—Isa. 1:18.
19 Yes, you will be a person of integrity by showing loving obedience. Maintain loyal endurance, and if serious sin occurs, manifest genuine repentance. What a precious gem is integrity! May each of us share the determination of David: “As for me, in my integrity I shall walk.”—Ps. 26:11.
How Would You Answer?
• How can you be a person of integrity?
• In what ways can you maintain your integrity?
• How is it possible to regain integrity?
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‘IT WAS BEAUTIFUL’
A woman who was five months pregnant spoke those words regarding the kindness and integrity of a stranger. She had been in a coffee shop, and hours later she realized that she had left her wallet behind. The wallet contained $2,000, far more money than she was used to carrying. “I was crushed,” she later told a local newspaper. However, a young woman found the wallet and immediately sought its rightful owner. Unsuccessful, she took it to the police station, and the police tracked down the pregnant woman. “It was a really, really beautiful thing to do,” the grateful owner commented. Why did the young woman go to such lengths to return the money? The newspaper noted that as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she “credits her integrity to the religion with which she was raised.”
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Youths can keep integrity when under test
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David failed to keep integrity for a time, but he recovered