Integrity: What’s the Price?

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If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. – Mark Twain

Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit. – Proverbs 26:24

Kyle was a small building contractor known for the high quality of his work. A sizable company awarded him the bid on a project larger than any he had ever done before.

Thousands of minute details required exacting coordination to meet the completion schedule. As the deadline for the grand opening approached like an unstoppable barge, he drove his men to the brink of mutiny. He swore he would be done on time, and he was.

The top man at the company who hired Kyle realized Kyle didn’t have the pull of a large outfit, so he withheld the final payment. The straw man he used was that the quality of the work wasn’t right, so he deserved a discount. He refused to pay. Kyle desperately needed the final payment for payroll. He finally gave in and lowered the invoice, which meant he had to give up his profit on the job.

The Problem

Have you ever gone to the pantry looking for a particular thing — say, peanut butter — only to be frustrated that it was nowhere to be found? You yell out to your wife, “Where’s the peanut butter?” Then she walks over to the pantry, reaches onto the second shelf, and hands you the jar with a “you lose” grin on her face.

Sometimes things are so obvious right before our eyes that we miss them.

Dishonesty is like that. It is so obvious that we often miss how wholly and completely it tints every aspect of life. If we take off our rose-colored glasses, however, we see a world painted in a whole different hue — the washed-out shades of dishonesty.

Frankly, dishonesty is so prevalent that we have accepted it as the norm — and it is. But while it may be normative, it’s cutting men off from God.

Watch the news or read the headlines:

“Pentagon probe aims at payoffs.”

“Mr. ________ admits cheating on wife.”

“The Ethics Committee of the House issues censure.”

“Twenty percent of GDP goes unreported to Uncle Sam.”

“College cheating ring uncovered.”

As heinous as the crimes of the headlines, the dishonesty that tints the daily life of the Christian grieves God just as much and perhaps more. Most men are trapped in the life of maintaining a “Christian image” for honesty, when in reality they wink at integrity every day. Albert Wells Jr. found this quote:

Honesty was always rare. Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, lighted a candle in the daytime and went around looking for an honest man. Blaise Pascal said he didn’t expect to meet three honest men in a century. The Institute of Behavior Motivation found that ninety-seven out of one hundred people tell lies — and they do it about one thousand times a year.

When we are all alone, with no peer pressure keeping us on the straight and narrow path, that’s when our real character is put to the test.

A man sitting next to me on a plane ordered a drink — a bourbon and Coke. The busy flight attendant said she would come back to collect his money, which he left lying on his tray table. She passed up and down the aisle several times. It became obvious the flight attendant had forgotten about his money. After she made a half dozen trips past us, my aisle-mate reached over, picked up his money, and slipped it back into his coat pocket. Integrity — what’s the price? Sold for a $6 drink.

This issue is so important because unless we hold on to absolute integrity in every situation, no matter how big or small, we grieve God and cut ourselves off from the larger blessing that we want and that God wants to give.

Luke 16:10 warns, “Whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

The Common Thread

The great heroes of the Bible came from diverse backgrounds. Some were kings. Others, like Gideon, came from the worst families. Samson was a powerful figure, while timid Moses practically feared his own shadow. Jonah doubted, yet David had unswerving faith. What, if any, common trait or characteristic did these men possess besides their faith in God? What attracted God to these men of such diversity? The answer will be painful to some of our ears: God knew that He could trust these men when they were all alone.

Some of these men willingly obeyed God and were faithful, but others were like pouty children, scoffing and kicking and protesting all the way. But they each had integrity. In the final analysis, after they had fussed and fumed, they settled on the honest way. After their faith, this characteristic of integrity, more than any other, distinguished the lives of Bible heroes. Their honesty was the common thread that attracted God’s blessing on their lives.

The Lower End of the Scale

When we think about dishonesty, we usually think of the gross indiscretions — cheating on taxes, stealing from our company, lying to a prospect, cheating on our wife. If we limit our thinking to major matters, we will miss the point that to be trustworthy with much, we must first prove trustworthy with little. In God’s eyes we are as guilty when we stuff our suitcase with motel towels as if we had robbed a bank. To be sure, the consequences are different, but the verdict is still guilty.

One evening I stopped by the home of a business colleague to drop off some papers. Next to his phone was a notepad with the company logo on it. The company policy manual stated that no office supplies were to be consumed for personal use. From that day forward my confidence in him was never quite the same. For him, that was an expensive pad of paper.

In one of Jesus’ parables, he says to a dishonest manager, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16:11 – 12).

A cab driver offered me a blank receipt. “You fill it in however you want,” he said.

“No, that’s okay. You see, I’m a Christian. That wouldn’t be right.” After a long, blank stare, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Okay, buddy, whatever you say.”

We must demonstrate our honesty at the lower end of the honesty spectrum before God will let us have greater responsibilities.

The first part of Luke 16:10, cited above, promises a reward when we’re trustworthy with little things: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” When we are honest, a surprised world will give a second thought to the possibility that Christ can make a difference in a man’s life.

Excerpted from The Man in the Mirror: Solving The 24 Problems Men Face by Patrick Morley, copyright Zondervan 2014.

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Your Turn

What “little things” have been entrusted to you? Living a life of integrity is a challenge, but without cultivating that character we will not be prepared to steward the “big things” well.  Join the conversation on the blog! We’d love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Patrick Morley

Bio: Patrick Morley is a business leader, speaker, and the best-selling author of twelve books, including The Man in the Mirror, Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, The Seven Seasons of the Man in the Mirror, and Devotions for the Man in the Mirror. He lives with his wife in Orlando, Florida.

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