Living the Lifestyle of Integrity and Ethics
By Apostle Frederick K.C. Price
Many Christians relate integrity and ethics only to those in leadership. In other words, leaders, including pastors, are supposed to be people of integrity and ethics, but these characteristics are not as important for others. Actually, every born-again Believer should be a person of integrity and ethics.
Unfortunately, these traits seem rare commodities in most people, especially those in leadership. I'm neither defending nor attacking leaders, but since I am in a leadership position and interface with other leader, that is simply what I know. You can only communicate what you are and what you have. And I think that as the leader goes, so go the followers.
The concept of integrity has been given little attention by philosophers but has been a central concern in most religions. Integrity, after all, is a sort of wholeness, and most religions teach that God calls us to live an undivided life in accordance with divine principle. For instance, in Islam, the sharia, the divine path that God directs people to walk in, guides all legal and moral statutes. In Judaism, the study of the Torah and the Talmud reveal the rules under which God's people are expected to live.
We, as Christians, are called in Matthew 5:8 to be pure in heart, which implies an undivided focus in following God's rule. It calls for no compromise, deviation or avoidance of the price tag that may have to be paid to stand for what we know to be right. We are also told in Proverbs 11:3: “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.”
In other words, according to this verse, integrity guides us to the truth. Integrity is not, in and of itself, the truth. It is a guide for acting on the truth, and it forces you to question and analyze your situation. Integrity is the process of discerning right from wrong, and then doing what you know to be right.
Say you give the cashier at the supermarket $10 to pay for $8.50 worth of groceries, but the cashier hands you back $11.50 in change. It is your integrity that recognizes that you have been given too much change and compels you to give back the extra $10.
Integrity guides you to know the truth by persuading you to act on what is right. Without this quality, you will go whichever way the wind is blowing, despite what you may know to be true.
Let me give you two words -- consistency and predictability. Consistency means "the same yesterday, today and forever," and predictability means knowing what will happen. This is why we can base our lives on God's Word, because God is consistent and predictable. In other words, we can count on God. You cannot have integrity without consistency and predictability.
Here is a classic illustration that serves to prove my point: The FaithDome, where most of you view me teaching on Sundays, could be filled to overflowing every Sunday if every person who claimed to be a member of Crenshaw Christian Center showed up consistently and predictably. This has not happened. We have the seats; we have the space – but where is the commitment of the members?
Most of these members would never consider robbing a liquor store or a supermarket, but they rob other members of their weekly fellowship and they rob God constantly by not bringing their tithes to church every Sunday. I am not talking about people who have to work on Sundays and have no real control over their assignments. The average job is Monday through Friday, and the person’s responsibility for being at work generally stops at the end of the shift on Friday.
Attending church on Sundays generally involves four days a month, for just a couple of hours each time. Add to that a Bible study, and the commitment becomes eight days – eight days out of 30 days! But you cannot get Christians who say they love God and know Christ to be consistent and predictable for those few days each month.
When I was the pastor, the only time I was not at Crenshaw Christian Center on Sundays is if I was out of the country. I have never missed a Sunday because of an ailment or illness in over 27 years, with the exception of one service due to a surgical procedure. I have taught on Sundays when I was in such blinding pain that every word out of my mouth was like a dagger sticking in me, but that is my job. It is only once a week, and if I cannot trust God to see me through, how can I trust Him to do anything else He promises in His Word?
If God were as inconsistent and unpredictable as most Christians, we would be up the creek in a boat with no oars. We expect our employers to be consistent and predictable in paying us every payday, and we would think them very unreliable if they did not pay us consistently. Actually, for us as Christians, God is our source; our employers are simply one of the channels through which God blesses us. So why can’t we be consistent with the things of the One who is taking care of us?
Jesus said in Luke 16:10-12: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?”
This principle is so true. If you are a person of integrity, whatever else may be going on around you is irrelevant and immaterial, and it is below your personal dignity not to follow through on your word. Why should God make a commitment to you when He cannot trust you? We are our promises, our words, and we lose hold of ourselves when we do not make an effort to keep our promises.
What does it take to be a person of integrity? The word moral found in our definition of integrity simply means good or right in conduct or character; principles; standards or habits with respect to right or wrong in conduct and ethics. This definition brings me to two words that I believe bear explanation – character and ethics.
Character refers to moral strength, self-discipline, fortitude, or a good reputation; it is what allows you to act on what your integrity guides you to believe is right. Ethics is a moral standard or set of values that are a foundation for your actions. It is because of your ethics that you do what you do and why you do not do some things that you could do.
Having ethics does not guarantee that you will do what is right or stay out of trouble. If your ethics are warped, then your value judgment will be warped because you can only make value judgments based on what is in you. If you do not have a sound moral or ethics standard, you are likely to do just about anything. That is why it is not until you combine morals and character with your ethics that you become a person of integrity – a person whose faculties guide him or her to do what is right.