By Kerry Bowman – September 14, 2016
My wife and I are in the middle of purchasing a home … actually building a home. We are both excited and cautious. Moving from the Midwest three years ago, we carry an impression about the housing market of SoCal that it can be a gamble. But renting is not working out and our family is growing up, so here we go!
In the process of making the many decisions involved, I’m reminded of the critical nature of trust. Trusting the realtor is forth-coming and looking out for my interests, trusting the home builder and their sub-contractor’s workmanship, trusting the mortgage company and the financing arrangements. It may be a physical structure I am purchasing, but in reality it is a “people journey” of entrustment.
For that reason the issue of integrity rises to the surface. Our integrity is compromised when we betray a trust. In the changing culture of today, integrity can be seen as expendable for all sorts of supposed gain. But integrity is essential if we are going to make a positive and lasting impact on others. Material items, even homes, will come and go, but what we do with our lives in bringing positive change to people lasts forever.
Webster describes integrity as “soundness of moral character.” The following are some common questions I have seen raised when addressing moral character concerning our interactions:
- How do you treat others who can’t benefit you?
- How genuine, truthful and transparent are you?
- Are you the same person when you are with different people?
- Are you the same person in public as in private?
- Do you quickly admit to yourself and others when you’re wrong?
Our dealings with others reflect our values. Every person has them. They empower our motives and drive our actions and interactions. People really do what people want to do. If financial gain or professional success are more important than integrity and the moral respect of others, then we will compromise the later for the former. Proverbs 28:18 (ESV) says “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” Those who choose to loosen their moral and ethical conduct in order to find temporary gain do not always have the upper hand as it sometimes appears. Nothing ultimately competes with the peace of an interior life that is virtuous, blameless and above reproach. And building our lives, families and careers on sound moral character will inevitably have enduring impact on each life that we touch.
God’s blessing also resides on those who pursue righteousness. Righteousness is not a word commonly used today, but the Greek New Testament word for “righteousness” primarily describes it as conduct in relation to others, especially in regards to the rights of others in business, legal matters, and our relationship to God. It is a word in scripture often juxtaposed to the word “wickedness”, as related to self-serving conduct neither revering God or the well-being of others.
One question I often wrestle with before God related to integrity and righteousness is why the “wicked” sometimes prosper, while those with moral integrity struggle. It is not a new question. In fact, one of the greatest minds in the Hebrew Scriptures, King David, struggled with the question three thousand years ago.
Psalm 73:13–18 (NLT)
13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
14 I get nothing but trouble all day long;
every morning brings me pain.
15 If I had really spoken this way to others,
I would have been a traitor to your people.
16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.
But what a difficult task it is!
17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path
and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
What does King David mean when he says “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood”?
I like to picture it this way. The church I pastor is friendly, has a contemporary setting with a lively band and I often speak from a bar stool and chair – very casual, relevant and engaging. We do not have what some would describe as a sanctuary – no stained glass windows, pews, organ or pulpit. What the Psalmist is describing here, however, is not a place to seat a physical body, but a place for our spiritual soul to gain perspective in a humbled posture before God. As surely as the outside sun can light up a church sanctuary within that does have beautiful stained glass, so also the light of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, can illuminate the sanctuaries of our heart, if we let him shine his truth and love within. We must enter the sanctuary to see the splendor of the light. Or better still, we must allow him to enter our lives to be the sanctuaries of light he wants to fill.
We must see our life actions through the frame of God’s grandeur picture for everyday purpose and for eternity. We were created to love God and love people. The destiny of those without integrity and Godly virtue may appear successful by the world’s measurements, but in the end they are on a slippery slope of destruction – and if not in this life, then in the life to come. Self-seeking gain will come to no gain at all. But pursuing integrity and the righteousness that only comes through God’s Son himself will yield peace in one’s heart and blessing and light to the heart of others, whether they be our clients, friends or enemies. Having our feet firmly planted on solid ground beats a slippery slope any day, even if supposed success in this life never comes our way.
Kerry Bowman is Lead Pastor of The Awakening Church in Murrieta, CA. Having gained life experience through 30 years of vocational ministry and business, Kerry enjoys time with his wife, Melissa, and their four kids ages twelve through twenty-three. He is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in missional leadership with Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA.