***Pastor Gary Flynt***
I want to speak to you today about a subject that’s very important, especially for anyone in a leadership position. I want to talk to you about integrity. Take a look at Psalm 15:1. “Lord, who shall abide in the tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”
The word tabernacle means tent. If you live in a tent with someone, you’re living very intimately with them. The question we’re to ask God is, “Lord, how can I have such close fellowship with you that we dwell in the same tent together?”
He answers that question for us. Look at Psalm 15:2. “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.”
That phrase “…walketh uprightly…” can be translated integrity. Look at verses .. “He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” That means he’s not going to stumble or get into trouble.
What is integrity anyway? The word comes from the root word integer, which means “intact or entire.” It speaks of wholeness or completeness. It speaks of someone who’d not divided, or double-minded, or double-tongued. It’s an individual who has nothing to hide and nothing to fear.
Synonyms would be honesty, or sincerity, or incorruptibility. There needs to be integrity in our walk. Our verse talks about him who “walketh uprightly.” If you walk with integrity, there will be some real benefits. God can guide the person with integrity. Proverbs 11:3 says, “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely.” In other words, you’re not walking on egg shells and Jello. You can live with confidence every day.
Also, when you walk with integrity you’re a blessing to other people….especially those who follow after you. Proverbs 20:7 says, “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” Happy are the children whose dad is a man of integrity….whose word is his bond.
According to the Bible, integrity is better than wealth. Proverbs 19:1 says, “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.”
Integrity ultimately pays. John Trent wrote about a woman named Anne who worked in a securities office where they traded bonds and such. She was privy to a lot of insider information which, if it was leaked out to others, they could make a lot of money. If she wanted to, she could make a lot of money dishonestly. But she was a believer and didn’t want to place herself in an area of temptation. She had a personal restroom near her office where she had put a sign on the mirror. It said, “The woman who looks in this mirror has been bought with Jesus’ shed blood. Make sure she lives like it!” I like that.
Not only should there be integrity in our walk; there should be integrity in our works. Verse 2 says, “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness…” Righteousness and integrity are inextricably interwoven.
The word righteousness is used some 500 times in the Bible. It’s used 139 times in the Book of Psalms. Integrity means wholeness, but righteousness means straightness or to meet a standard. Sometimes we talk about walking the straight and narrow. It’s like that. It means that when we make a judgment, we ask what is right. When we make a promise, we keep it. When there’s something to be said, you tell the truth.
There should be integrity in our walk, integrity in our works, and integrity in your words. You don’t have to have nearly as great a memory when you speak the truth. Speaking the truth removes fear because you don’t have to worry about being found out. You ought to be the same in your hotel room as you are in your Sunday school room. Verses 2-3 say, “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor.”
The way to speak truth is to have truth in your heart. Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” If you have a filthy mouth, you have a filthy heart. If you have dishonest lips, you have a dishonest heart. The heart can’t be seen, but sooner or later your heart will be made known to people by what you say.
Have you ever seen a tree that seemed vibrant and alive on the outside, but a gentle breeze comes along and topples the tree? If you look closely at that tree, you’ll see that it has a rotten heart. It may have beautiful leaves, or flowers, or berries, but the heart is rotten.
Often we see Christians who have the flowers and the fruits, but they fall because their heart is rotten. Verse 2 tells us that the man of integrity speaks truth in his heart.
With integrity, there’s a great payoff in your walk and in your works. But you should also have integrity in your words. Abraham Lincoln said, “I always tell the truth; that way I don’t have nearly so much to remember.”
Today, instead of having integrity, politicians change images like a chameleon depending on what crowd they’re with!
If you’ve tried to walk with integrity, you know that it ultimately pays. But you also know that it’s sometimes painful. Connie was a waitress who was working hard to make a living. She had a boss who wasn’t easy to please. When she was taking an order, she asked a man what kind of dressing he wanted on his salad. The man told her something and she went back to the counter to place the order. The man behind the counter was the owner. He said, “What kind of dressing does he want on his salad?” She couldn’t remember, but she said, “Blue cheese.” He noticed that she looked a little quizzical so he said, “Are you sure?” She said, “Yes, I’m sure. It’s blue cheese.” She took it and served it to the man. As it turns out, that’s what he wanted….blue cheese. There was no damage….except to her heart.
For a number of days she was thinking, “I told a lie to the boss. I told him I was sure when I wasn’t sure. I know it’s a small thing, and I really didn’t make a mistake. He really did want blue cheese.” But she couldn’t get any peace.
Have you ever been that sensitive about something that small? Finally, she went to her boss and said, “Do you remember when I said I was sure that man wanted blue cheese?” He probably didn’t remember it, but she said, “I’m sorry. I lied to you. I wasn’t sure. Please forgive me.” He said, “Okay, I forgive you.” He just gave her a cold stare and went back to work.
Several months passed. He needed somebody he could promote in the restaurant: somebody who could handle money, somebody he could trust and pay more money to. Who do you think he chose? He chose Connie.
People know we aren’t perfect, but they want to know that we’re sensitive to doing the right thing. They want to know that we don’t override our conscious even in the small things. They just want us to tell the truth.
A preacher needs to study the Word, defend the Word, live the Word and practice the Word. We need to have integrity in our walk, integrity in our work, and integrity in our words. We also need to have integrity in our warfare. Psalm 15:4 says, “In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.”
He’s saying that a Christian ought to choose sides carefully and never compromise. There’s always a temptation to compromise in the ministry. The word contemned means despised. It means that you don’t honor wickedness. There are athletes, and politicians, and actors today that do evil, but people still want to honor them. The problem in America is that we have too many idols and not enough heroes.
We are not to be envious of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. There is a warfare going on and we need to choose to be on the side of the people of God and the things of God. We want the good guys to finish first.
I know pastors who won’t preach against evil because they have somebody in their church who’s a person of money and influence. But you can’t compromise and go along in order to get along. We have to set a standard and say, “This is right and this is wrong.” We have to take a stand even if it hurts. This verse says, “He swears to his own hurt and does not change.” In other words, if you make a promise, keep it: even if it costs you time, or effort, or money, or position. You’ll sleep better and your children will honor you.
Be careful about the promises you make; but if you make a promise, keep it. Stay in the battle. Preachers often quote Charles Hadden Spurgeon. He was an English preacher of towering intellect and he would not compromise. Here’s what he said about the battle for truth. He told some preachers, “Sirs, what have we to do with consequences? Let the heavens fall, but let the good man be obedient to his Master and loyal to His truth. Oh, man of God, be just and fear not. The consequences are with God and not with thee. If thou hast done a good work under Christ, though it should seem to thy poor, blurred eyes as if a great evil has come of it, yet thou hast done it, Christ has accepted it, and He will note it down, and in thy conscience, He will smile thee His approval.”
You have to have integrity in warfare. You don’t go around picking fights, but you do choose sides. God’s people at their worst are better than the devil’s crowd at their best. Just get on the right side and stay on it. Have integrity in your walk, have integrity in your work, have integrity in your words, have integrity in your warfare, and have integrity in your wealth. Look at Psalm 15:5. “He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.”
Is he telling us that we can’t collect interest? Is he saying that we can’t put our money in the banks? No. The word usury carries with it the idea of taking a bite out of something. Here’s what the Bible says about it in Exodus 22:25. “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.” Leviticus 25:35-36 says, “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God: that thy brother may live with thee.”
Does the Bible forbid making money with money? No. As a matter of fact, Jesus rebuked a man for not doing it. In Matthew 25:27 Jesus said, “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.”
Jesus encourages the practice of investing money and making it grow. But what the Bible says is this: You are not to take a bite out of a man when he’s down. You’re to help him. You’re not to take advantage of a destitute person.
There is enough in the Bible about poor people that we ought to be looking for people we can be a blessing to. But David also talks about bribery here. He says, “Nor taketh reward against the innocent.” That’s a bribe. When you’re bought off with a bribe, you begin to look at things from somebody else’s viewpoint other than Gods.
A man of God can’t change his preaching even if Mrs. Gotrocks and Mr. Moneybags is in the congregation. There have always been people who try to run a church by what they give. But don’t get the idea that all people with money are ungodly. And don’t get the idea that poor people are godly. Some of the meanest people I know are poor….and that’s probably why they’re poor! Some of the greatest Christians I’ve ever known are people of wealth. But you can’t preach the Word of God with respect to persons. You can’t determine what you’re going to say by who’s sitting in the congregation. If you do, that’s tantamount to taking a bribe and innocent people will always be hurt.
Many of you know the name P.T. Barnum, the showman of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He was the ultimate snake oil salesman. P.T. Barnum learned of the ministry of Charles Hadden Spurgeon. Barnum thought, “If I can get Spurgeon to come to the United States, I could send him around preaching and the two of us could do real well.” So he sent Spurgeon a message and made him an offer. He said, “If you’ll come to America and preach, I will reward you wonderfully.” Spurgeon sent back a wire. All it had on it was a verse of Scripture from Acts 8:20. “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”
The Bible teaches that a preacher who does well should be paid well. But the man of God must have integrity in his walk, integrity in his work, integrity in his words, integrity in his warfare, and integrity in his wealth.
And the Bible promises that if a man does that, he shall never be moved. He will stand and have a fruitful ministry.
Are you ready to become a man or woman of integrity today? Have you failed in that area? If so, come to the altar and do business with God today.