Don’t be a bag of potato chips. We’ve all been there: you buy the bag, get home, then after opening it you cry out, “Where are all the chips! There’s more air in here than anything else!” Sure, the bag gave the illusion of being full. You’re disappointed, but there were enough chips to convince you to buy another bag next time you get a craving.
The word “integrity” means “full, complete, whole.” That bag of chips had no integrity. It appeared to be full, but it was not. It can be so tempting for us to present ourselves in a certain way (in the best cases, we’re trying to live into who we want to be; in the worst cases, we’re manipulating people). Sooner or later, our integrity will make itself known.
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” Proverbs 11:3-4
Integrity Will Guide You
When the clerk at the store forgets to charge us for something, will we go back to the store to pay for it? When we can cut corners and no one else will notice, will we? Will we lie for our friends (remember, if you can lie for someone, you can lie to them!)? Living with integrity is costly and inconvenient. It will make you stand out, and not always in a good way.
Your integrity will guide you. It will drive your decisions. If we have integrity, then we will do what honors God even when it is costly and inconvenient. It might cost us extra money. It might cost us our jobs. But we will stand for justice and live with integrity.
Whether you have integrity or not will make itself known by how you handle small decisions. It’s those corners we cut which pave the way to major compromise. If you are diligent in the small decisions, you will be faithful with the big ones.
Righteousness Will Guard You (but not your righteousness)
Ultimately, when we stand before God in judgment, none of us will be saved by our wealth or popularity or influence. Riches will not save. Our righteousness is the only thing that will defend us. And yet, the Bible is crystal clear that “there is no one who is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).
In Galatians 2:21 the Apostle Paul says, “if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Here’s the message: It isn’t our righteousness which protects and guides us; it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The righteousness we need to live with integrity can only come through faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot earn righteousness. It is a pure gift of grace (otherwise Jesus’ life and work was unnecessary).
In our world where Christian leaders seem to fall into disgrace with thunderous applause by the world, we need to be different.
Resist the temptation to present yourself as anything more (or less) than you truly are. Authenticity is overrated, because you can be authentic but still be a jerk. Christian integrity on the other hand, that will lead to open confession that you are reliant on the righteousness of Christ to guard you, because you know how far short your own integrity and righteousness falls.
Instead, seek integrity by daily preaching the gospel to yourself every morning. Don’t be a puffed up bag of potato chips – advertising more of something than you really have. Let there be truth in advertising when it comes to you. Be who you present yourself to be. And present yourself as you truly are – a work in progress according to the hand of God.
(Note: This article is based off a sermon I preached at Emmanuel Baptist Church on 8/21/16. Audio may be found here.)