What Does Godly Integrity Look Like?
Integrity, Honesty, Consistency, Psalm 15
This morning we look at a Psalm 15 which was written by King David. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding the writing of the Psalm. Some suggest it may have been when David was preparing to move the Ark of God to Jerusalem and wanted to make sure they did it correctly (they had tried it once before and did it wrong and someone died because of it).
David asked a question of God at the beginning of the Psalm that should be on the heart of every believer: “Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?”
David is not asking “How can I get to Heaven?” He wasn’t asking for a list of do’s and don’ts that would earn him a place in God’s Kingdom. We can’t earn a place in God’s Kingdom, it is something given to us by grace through God’s promise which was fulfilled in Jesus.
The question David is asking is: how should a God-follower live? In other words, “How do we live a life of integrity and faithfulness?”
Integrity (or the soundness of moral character) is a problem today. Think about what we read and have seen in our experience
- Church leaders involved in sexual scandal
- Politicians who take bribes and commit indecent acts
- Employees who steal from their employers
- Students who cheat on exams
- Athletes who gain an edge through drugs
- Witnesses who lie on documents and in court
- Politicians who start whisper campaigns which are designed to undermine another’s position
- People who claim to be Christians but can’t be trusted in business.
- Co-workers who never arrive to work on time (and often leave early).
- People who are prominent in a church but don’t live lives any different from the pagans around them.
Integrity is a problem and it is an especially significant problem for Christians. As representatives of Jesus Christ our inconsistency and lack of integrity destroys our testimony before a watching world.
After the opening question: “Who may worship in your sanctuary?” David gives some characteristics of the person who can come into God’s presence. The first thing he says is,
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
This is a couplet. That means it has two parts that say roughly the same thing. Couplets are very common in the Psalms.
David measures integrity by how we live in accordance with God’s standards. That is not the way everyone defines integrity (which is where we find our integrity crisis). To an increasing number of people in our society their standard of truth is “whatever works for me” or “whatever makes me happy (in the moment)”. For these people, they don’t see their actions (when they lie, cheat, or act immorally) as a lack of integrity. In their minds, they are perfectly consistent with their value system. They are doing whatever will gain them the greatest advantage or pleasures.
David is operating from a different reference point. He believes there is a standard of truth; there is a right and a wrong; that is the same for everyone. It does not change with the individual; it is set by God. We find that standard of truth in the
Bible. David says the person of integrity is one who lives consistently with God’s standards. They are people who DO what is right rather than merely TALK about it.
I suspect there is not a one of us who would be comfortable standing in front of a group to claim that we are “blameless” in the way we live our lives. There would undoubtedly be people in the crowd who would point out our flaws and inconsistency. Our only hope of being “blameless” before God is to be seen as one who has been forgiven by the work of Christ.
However, don’t miss the message of David: a true believer is one who is working to live consistently with what they say they believe. They are not merely professing faith, they are trying to walk by faith in their everyday lives.
In Bible days it took many hours for a potter to shape, fire (in a handmade kiln), and cool a piece of cookware. Unfortunately, because of the uneven heat of a wood-fired furnace, cracks would often show up in the clay during the cooling process.
If you were a true craftsman, you would shatter the piece that had cracks and start over. However, some potters just filled in the cracks with wax and then painted over everything. The pot looked good. That vessel might hold up the first few times it was used. However, if something hot was placed inside of it, the wax would melt and expose the defect. This is why honest potters began putting the inscription “Without Wax” on the bottom of their pots. It meant it was a “vessel of integrity”.
The person who leads a blameless life and does what is right is living “without wax”. They are not pretenders. Such people are not perfect but you know that they are consistently moving in the direction of full obedience.
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
or harm their neighbors
or speak evil of their friends.
In this couplet we see a contrast. Positively: The person of Integrity speaks the truth and does so with a desire to communicate truthfully and in a way that helps another person. They do not just “blast away” and say “I was only telling the truth”.
The negative side is that a person of integrity does not gossip, they don’t wound their neighbor with their words, they don’t speak evil about their friends. This is what we should be working toward: conversation that is truthful and positive; building others up rather than tearing them down.
You can learn a great deal about a person from their speech. You learn how they regard the Lord, how they view holiness, how they feel about truth, and their attitude toward other people. We would possibly learn more about ourselves than we want to know if we would listen to ourselves a little more carefully.
Gossip and harmful speech destroys the testimony of the church. We advertise that we are a place of grace. We confess that we are all sinful people who need a supernatural work of God in our lives. We admit that there is none that is righteous, not even one. And yet, instead of giving people the “benefit of the doubt” our words draw attention to the sins and failures! We seem to relish the stumbles of others. Why? Because we want to divert attention away from us! We talk about each other rather than to each other because frankly it is more fun to create conflict than it is to resolve it.
Chuck Swindoll gives some simple gates that every conversation should pass through if we wish to speak with integrity.
- Gate 1: Is it confidential (if so, never mention it)
- Gate 2: Is it true? This may take some investigation
- Gate 3: Is it necessary (so many words are useless)
- Gate 4: Is it Kind? (Does it serve a wholesome purpose?)
- Final Principle: If you ever have to say, “I really shouldn’t say this” DON’T!
Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord (v. 4)
People of Godly Integrity are those who hate what God hates and loves what God loves. These people understand the difference between good and evil; holy and profane. They choose their close friends carefully because they know the power that people have to lead us astray.
People with godly values are guarding what they watch and read and whom they allow to influence them in life (and we all have people who we allow to influence us). James Montgomery Boice wrote,
A few years ago a government commission in Canada studied the characteristics of today’s young people, and one of the things they discovered is that the youth of today have no heroes. This is hard for most older people to appreciate, for we did and do have heroes. There were people we admired and have tried to be like. But the youth of today generally have no heroes, no models. Without heroes they tend to drift along.
But there is one thing worse than having no models, and that is having the wrong ones. And I suspect that, in spite of the Canadian study, many young people are actually drifting in this direction now. They admire the rock singer who has an abominable lifestyle but is nevertheless rich and famous. They admire the crack dealer who prances around in fancy clothes and sports gold jewelry. And the upright people? People who work hard for a living? Fathers who provide for their families? Mothers who are faithful in caring for and rearing their children? People who sacrifice for others? The young couldn’t care less about such people.
In fact, many older people don’t think much of such people either. One social critic says, “We have reached a point in our day where people would rather be envied than admired.” Not so the righteous! We are told in the psalm that he who God approves “despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord.”
I’d like to think this is exaggerated but I am afraid it may not be. As a society we seem to be more attracted to excitement than to character. As a result we pursue enjoyment over doing what is right. People of Integrity are always evaluating the people of influence in their lives.
and keep their promises even when it hurts (4c)
There are two parts to this simple statement. Not only does a person of integrity do what they say they will do; they will also do it even if it is costly to them. It is easier to do what we have promised if doing so will be to our advantage. However, to do it when it becomes inconvenient or even when it is costly, is something entirely different.
We see this kind of integrity in
- The person fulfils their contract even if they have cost overruns.
- The customer who pays their bill when work has been completed rather than make the worker hound them for their money in the hope of getting a discount.
- The person who shows up to do a job they agreed to do even though they had another (or better) opportunity.
- The person who remains faithful to their spouse even when there is illness or it becomes difficult and it is no longer “fun”.
- The person who does what they tell their children they will do . . . even if they do have a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
- They not only profess to be a follower of Christ, they carry it through in the choices they make in life.
Handle Money in a Godly Manner
Those who lend money without charging interest,
and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
How we use our money reveals a great deal about our heart. The point I think that David is making is that people of integrity use money to help people rather than using people to make money.
David isn’t saying that loaning money at interest is evil. However, the command as it is consistently applied throughout the Old Testament was against taking advantage of people in need in order to make a profit.
The person who has a godly character is one who cannot be bought. This is consistent with everything that has come before. The person of integrity knows the difference between right and wrong. They value people and are loyal to their friends. Consequently they won’t sell them out for money or some other benefit.
Money can be used in an evil way,
- To destroy another person or business
- To buy votes
- To keep someone helpless and dependent
- To put someone (or even an organization) in your debt (such as when someone gives money and believes this now gives them the right to control things)
- To diminish another person or make them feel they are less valuable (usually because they don’t have/make enough money).
The person of integrity uses things and loves people rather than loving things and using people.
David ends the Psalm with a declaration that should make all of us take notice:
Such people will stand firm forever.
This message could have been titled, “How to Stand Firm Forever”. Don’t you want that for your life? Wouldn’t we all like to live with a consistency that does not waver or fade? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have people stand up at our funeral and testify to our consistent and godly character? Don’t you desire to have people testify that they saw Jesus in the way you lived your life?
Notice what David does NOT say. He does not say people who live with Integrity and Godly Character will not have problems. The truth is that people of integrity often become targets. When you live with integrity you will expose the lack of integrity in others. People do not like to be exposed in such a way.
David also doesn’t say that people who live this way will be honored by the world. Integrity sometimes costs you financially (you may not make as much profit as others; it may cost you to keep your promise). It may cost you in terms of popularity because people tend to resent those who will not enter with them into the foolish behaviours of sin. It may cost you on the job because some people resent those who work hard all the time.
However, the person of integrity
- Can live without regret
- Will know God’s peace
- Will have a clear path to follow
- Will be respected by the world (even by those who may resent you).
- Will become a person that others “go to” when they face a time of crisis.
- Will be used by God to communicate the life-changing message of life and grace.
We cannot “make ourselves” into a person of integrity but God can and desires to develop this characteristic in us. As we allow ourselves to be more and more controlled by His Spirit, we should be seeing these qualities growing in our lives.
So here is the question: Do others view you as a person of integrity? Would people who read this passage think of you as an example of the kind of person David is describing? I encourage you to use this Psalm as a guide for your own prayers. Take these characteristics one by one and ask God to reveal where you are missing the mark. Take aim at those areas of weakness. Make them a matter of prayer. Work on them diligently.
God calls us to be as diligent about developing godly integrity as we are about becoming proficient in our sport or hobby; or focused on trying to lose weight; or rehab from an illness. Godly integrity will not come to us . . . we must pursue it and must do so diligently.
As you make progress you will find that you will have a greater sense of God’s blessing and leading in your life. And even more importantly, the Lord Jesus will be better able to shine through you before the watching world.