Where Has Integrity Gone?

Integrity - It Matters

Leadership character has always been of concern for Christians.

There are so many passages in the Bible that talk about the importance of Christ-like character.
  • Like the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), and the opposite, the acts of the flesh
  • Like the nature of love (1 Corinthians 13)
  • Like the use and misuse of power (Matthew 20:20-28)
  • Like the requirements for the kings of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)
I could add many, many more examples.

But here is one of my favorite verses from the Book of Psalms (since we are in the midst of the Psalms right now, this is even more relevant).

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. Psalm 78:72

We’ll come back to the meaning of integrity in a moment. But, this was so powerful that God uses integrity when he appears to David’s son and successor, Solomon.
“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever…”  1 Kings 9:4-5

God requires integrity of the heart for those who will lead his people. Integrity of heart is always a good thing for all people, at all times, but it is non-negotiable when it comes to leadership.

You can lead without integrity, but you won’t be God’s person as you do. You will be your own person and you will not achieve the purposes of God without integrity of heart. If you want to lead in the ways of God, then integrity is required.

What Integrity Means

So, what is integrity?

There are several overlapping definitions.

First, integrity is almost synonymous with uprightness (see the 1 Kings passage). To have integrity is to be upright. To be upright is to be moral or to have substantial moral principles that frame how you live.

Second, integrity means you are whole. If you don’t have integrity, you are divided and fragmented. Did you ever hear the phrase “the integrity of a ship” being used to describe a boat as sea-worthy? In other words, the ship is seamless; it is whole and complete. It will not take on water. If you are ever on an ocean cruise, you can be sure that you want the vessel to have integrity. A person of integrity is whole with their thoughts, words, behaviors, motives, and relationships. What people see is the real and true you. You walk the talk. You can also think of the word integrated.

Third, integrity means consistency and constancy. You remain the same over time. You are not good one day and bad the next. You do not tell the truth at times and then lie at other times.

Put these together and integrity means you are morally upright in all areas of life, and over time.

With or Without Integrity?

When leaders lack integrity, they are almost certain to fall into certain leadership temptations: money, sex, power, and pride.

Money, sex, and power have been the three core temptations that pastors, spiritual directors, theologians, and ethicists have identified for thousands of years. PRIDE is the original sin. All four of them are insidious and often go together. When leaders fail, so often you will find several if not all four sins present.

The last several years have seen the exposure of many well-known Christian leaders for moral failures on these four issues. But it is not just Christian leaders of churches and missional organizations, it is also seen in the life of our economic leaders and political leaders.

Whenever leaders who are in positions of power and influence lack integrity and fall into these sinful patterns, not only will the people around them be hurt, but the constituencies (or audiences) suffer as well.

Which is why this quote  from Warren Buffett is so powerful.
Whenever people relax the standard of integrity for those who lead us, leaders will lead poorly and often disastrously. We see a lack of leadership integrity everywhere. And we see the fall out consequences of that lack of integrity everywhere.

Which is why God REQUIRES integrity on the part of those who will lead.

Living Word has many checks and balances in place to safeguard the church, the mission, and the people of God.

We have rigorous financial protocols in place to ensure financial integrity and your confidence in how your financial gifts are handled.

We have an Above Reproach policy that guides our staff in all relationships, with one another and with the congregation.

We have a Whistle Blower policy in place where any staff who is concerned about even questionable behavior of leaders and supervisors can be safely and appropriately reported.

We have iron sharpening iron conversations with one another. One leadership book describes them as Crucial Conversations.

We do not assume we are above or beyond failure. We take seriously the command to “Above all else, guard the heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). It is also the wellspring of organizational life.

Let’s keep high standards of character God requires of leaders, whether in the church or in the world. Let’s not deceive ourselves and think bad character will accomplish good ends. In the short term it may seem to, but in the long haul it always explodes. That is one of the lies of the devil (the end justifies the means).

Let’s realize that character is always in motion. Bad character is always getting worse. A lack of integrity will produce more and more bad fruit. And, maintaining integrity will get stronger and stronger as well.

Let's keep getting stronger and stronger with integrity of the heart.
Pastor Brian Rice
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