First Mennonite Church
October 7, 2018
Integrity: A Life of Faithfulness
Text: Ecclesiastes 5:4-6; Matthew 5:36, 37.
“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; 3 fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?
36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
It seems that today more than ever integrity and honesty are becoming more difficult to find. Lack of integrity can be found from the highest ranking official to the one in the lowest rank in the workplace. Job applicants exaggerate their resumes in order to have better chances of getting employed. Employees who have used all their sick-days off, call in sick just to go Black-Friday shopping. Car-sales agents overpromise on the quality of their cars only to make their monthly quota. It seems we live in a world where cutting moral corners is becoming acceptable. What plays out on live TV these days is clearly indicative of how morally bankrupt our world has become, especially in relationship to integrity and honesty. But not all is lost. There are some honest people out there yet. And very often the world celebrates and rejoices when someone acts with integrity.
Just recently the news was abuzz about 16-year-old Rhami Zeini from Santa Barbara. He found a black purse containing $10,000.00. Rhami took the purse to the sheriff’s office where the money was reunited with its owner. The owner said she must have placed her purse on the roof of her car and driven away.
But not everyone is like Rhami. In Hopkins, Minnesota, Joey Prusak was on duty at a Dairy Queen counter when a blind man came in for ice cream. While taking his card out of his wallet, the man dropped a $20 bill on the floor. Behind him was another customer who picked up the money and stashed it into her purse. Joey thought the woman would give back the money to its owner. She did not. So when she came to place her order, Joey confronted her. “Why didn’t you give the money to the gentleman?” he asked. “It dropped from my purse,” the woman replied. “No, I saw when it came out of the man’s wallet,” countered Joey. The woman insisted the money was hers and that she had no obligation to give her money away. Joey told the woman he would not serve such a dishonest person and asked her to leave the establishment. The woman left only after she had berated Joey. After Joey had served the other customers, he went over to the man whose money had fallen out of his wallet and gave him a $20 bill. “This is the amount of money that came out of your wallet as you were paying me with your card,” said Joey.
Some customers who saw what had happened and what Joey had done took pictures of what he was doing. Some posted it on Facebook. Joey received many compliments for his kind action. Not many days later, Joey received a phone call. It was a call from Warren Buffet, the owner of Dairy Queen. He expressed his gratitude for Joey’s honesty and act of kindness. Warren Buffet offered to pay for Joey’s trip to attend an upcoming shareholders’ meeting. People who learned about Joey’s action gave him money to attend college.
Integrity: what is it? The Oxford English Dictionary describes integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. And so now you might wonder, where in the Bible do we find either a command or instruction on having integrity as part of our Christian conduct? In the language of the Bible, integrity appears as faithfulness. God is described as being a faithful God. The moment we open the Bible, story after story emphasizes the image of a faithful God. A God who promises and fulfills what he promises. He made a promise to give Abraham a son and Isaac was born. He promised to rescue Israel from the Egyptian oppression and the exodus event took place. God promised to be with Moses and God delivered the ten plagues. God promised a deliverer and Jesus was born to save his people from their sin. God’s character is that of faithful God. God is steadfast in his faithfulness. It is no wonder why often times the biblical writers called God a Rock. When Moses asked the Lord for his name, God replied, “I AM WHO I AM.” Implied in that rather strange response is the ever-present nature of God throughout eternity. God never changes. God remains the same. He was true, is true, and will remain forever true. In light of God’s track record, the psalmist wrote, “His faithfulness continues throughout all generations,” and “his faithfulness endures forever.” (Psalms 105:5, 117:2)
The apostle Paul spoke of the Lord’s faithfulness
If we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself. (2Timothy 2:13).
It is the nature of God to be faithful. Integrity belongs to God.
God’s people, we, are expected to be truthful, honest and faithful. This idea runs throughout the Bible. In the scripture passages for today we hear the wise advice of Ecclesiastes: When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. It is expected from us who confess believing a faithful God to also reflect faithfulness in our daily dealings. God expects us to fulfill the promises we make to him.
Jesus’ words are clear on being truthful and in having integrity. When we say “yes” to something we should not only mean it but more importantly fulfill the promise for which we said yes. We cannot say “Yes, I will be there” and then not show up. We should not promise do something and then not do it. Our yes should be yes and our no should be no, Jesus said. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one. We should be honest and truthful in our words.
When our children were younger we needed to take them to get their immunization shots. On a previous doctor’s visit, Jasmine had a very bad experience. The needle broke when she was poked by the nurse. After that Jasmine was always afraid to go to the dentist or doctor. One day before she was taken to the doctor for her vaccines, she asked Lilian, “Mommy, will it hurt?” Lilian said, “Sweetie, it will hurt a bit. But I will be there to hold you. The pain should go away before too long.” Honesty is very important when talking to our children.
How do we continue to grow in integrity, honesty and truth? We begin by speaking the truth. The book of Proverbs abound with the instruction of speaking the truth.
Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. (Proverbs 12:19)
Have I not written thirty sayings for you,
sayings of counsel and knowledge,
21 teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth,
. . . to those you serve? (Proverbs 22: 20-21)
Paul writes to Titus, God does not lie. So when we speak the truth, we reflect God’s character. Let us remember that speaking truth is first about ourselves. Sometimes speaking the truth about ourselves might not be the most convenient thing to do. Sometimes speaking the truth means we have to admit our mistakes. The psalmist writes that the one who dwells in the house of the Lord is the one who keeps an oath even when it hurts, but even so does not change his or her mind. (Psalm 15:4).
We must also speak truth to one another, but in love and grace. Spiritual maturity is revealed in the way we speak—filled with grace and truth. And although we claim that God’s truth is ultimate, we need to remind ourselves that sometimes our view and ideas of truth can be subjective. That is why our words should be truthful, yet “always with grace and seasoned with salt,” as Paul says in Colossians 4:6.
Another practical way to grow in integrity or faithfulness is by not over-committing ourselves. In his book Right Away & All At Once, Greg Brenneman writes, Learn to say no. If you want to save time for your close friends and family . . . then you must learn to say “no.” Because without this discipline most of us just keep saying yes to things until we discover we lack the time to do anything well [or all at]. For anyone who gets to that point, more often than not, promises will go unfulfilled. Greg also emphasizes that our “no” should be said with grace.
Another key to being faithful is by being sincere. Paul writes of having sincere faith and love for others. But having sincere faith and love for others begins by being sincere ourselves. The word sincere comes from the Latin sine—without, cera—wax. It is said that when carpenters were selling their furniture they would put it out in the sun and tell the prospective buyers that the furniture are sincera–sincere. That is because some carpenters used to cover the flaws in the wood with wax but when put out in the sun, the wax melted that the flaws became visible. Being sincere means we are pure and whole. There is no wax or masks on us to cover-up our flaws, which when put under stress or hardship would reveal the real us.
One last practical suggestion to having integrity. In 1Corinthians 15, verse 33, Paul writes: Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” This is wise advice. Bad company will certainly expose us to bad influences. In the end bad company with corrupt good character.
In New Living Translation version of the Bible, this is how Proverbs 20, verse 7, reads: The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them. Let us remember that we serve a faithful God. He is a God who keeps his promises. He never changes. And we as his children are called to live faithful lives. Integrity, honesty and sincerity should be our garment. Amen.