What Does it Mean to Walk in Integrity?

Toyota is battling a huge integrity issue. The company is recalling more than eight million cars in order to fix defects that it appears were known to them but went unacknowledged. A string of crashes and even deaths have forced the automaker to own up to manufacturing defects.

Who is responsible for this failure?

There is an answer. It is that corporate or group failure involving integrity must always be seen first as a personal failure. And it seems to me that a lesson regarding integrity can be drawn here that will benefit all Christians.

Integrity means wholeness – that is, without the admixture of duplicity. In the business world, it means being who you say you are and doing what you say you will do. Your performance matches your claims.

The reason we take the moral failure of a large organization down to the individual level is that organizations have no brain or heart of their own.

An organization’s brain is its officially adopted and written commitments and these are made by persons; its heart is the serious attention of those persons to these commitments.

So, integrity is first of all a personal issue. The Bible makes this point repeatedly. This being the case, if personal integrity matters so much in the work-a-day world, shouldn’t it matter even more in the Christian world?

Indeed. And that’s why the Scriptures repeatedly appeal in one way or another to the issue of personal integrity. The Bible’s object lessons are numerous and compelling.

For example, Joseph’s commitment to sexual integrity made him resist the temptation to violate the marriage of his boss. There was no one there to make the decision for him. His integrity landed him in jail, but the long term results were good beyond measure (Gen.39-48).

Add to this case the names of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, John the Apostle, and above all, our Lord Jesus Christ. In our struggles to walk in integrity, he is our constant example.

Toyota will seek to recover its integrity as a company by apologizing, taking responsibility, making amends in concrete ways, and then recommitting to following good business practices.

Top management has already acknowledged their fault and pledged their commitment to make corrections insofar as possible. Individuals at the top are making the company’s integrity a personal matter.

In these morally soft times, I’m convinced that believers are being called afresh to be salt and light in the world, partly through the example of walking in unassailable integrity.

Here are three lessons we can draw to help us take a second hard look.

First, personal integrity is primarily a matter of the heart. It begins in the realm of cleansed motivations – purity of heart. Solomon exhorted young men thus: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23).

Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Integrity is first restored – by the Lord’s enablement – at the level of the heart.

Second, integrity is essential to true happiness – what some have called, “the higher happiness.” The psalmist says, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit (Psalm 32:2). Christians are “blessed” not only because they are absolved of their sin but because they are cleansed of their guile or deception. They are real.

Finally, walking in integrity requires diligence because challenges come nearly daily to allow a disconnect between motives and speech. A continuing walk of integrity requires that we be on the alert to the still small voice of God, the reproof of those around us, and especially to the potential schemings of our own hearts.

Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9).

The Apostle Paul knew this and he said to the Roman governor, Felix, when he was on trial before him: “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16). He was a believer who professed to live with deep, ongoing integrity.

As individual Christians, when we belong to God wholeheartedly, he puts into our hearts a longing for integrity. We want a mended character. It is for us to seek the grace to nurture that longing.

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