Summary: In order to regain your integrity after it is lost, let God reveal your sin, rebuke you for it, and then restore you wholly and completely just like He did for Abraham.
Every few years the U.S. Department of Defense publishes a short book called The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure. The book is filled with case studies of government employees acting badly, and it's used to train new government workers how not to behave on the job.
Recently, one case study focused on a federal employee who backed up his van to the office door at night and stole all of his department's computer equipment. A short time later he was arrested for trying to sell the equipment at his yard sale. He wasn't hard to catch: the computers were still plastered with barcodes and stickers that read “Property of the U.S Government.”
Another case study described two government executives, who apparently had never taken any vacation time. However, investigators noticed that they had taken lots of “religious compensatory time.” Yet those days never fell on a religious holiday from any known religion. Instead, they happened to coincide with the employees' golf outings. When asked if golf tournaments should be considered a religious holiday, one of the employees replied, “They could be for some people.” (Stephen J. Dunbar, “Government Employees Gone Wild: Full Transcript,” Freakonomics blog, 7-17-13; www.PreachingToday.com)
How could people be so dumb? The current editor of The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure suggests, “At the moment they didn't think of the ramifications.”
And yet, there is probably not a one of us who hasn’t done the same thing, something dumb without thinking of the ramifications. So what do you do when that happens? What do you do to regain your integrity? What do you do to regain trust among those you have let down?
Genesis 20:1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. (ESV)
That’s the land of the Philistines.
Genesis 20:2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. (ESV)
That is, He took her into his harem. Didn’t Abraham learn his lesson the first time? Several years before this, he lied about his wife in Egypt and nearly lost her. Now, he’s lying about his wife in Philistine territory. He’s scared, afraid that they will kill him for his wife, so he tells them, “She is my sister,” and loses her again! She about to become another man’s wife.
How could Abraham be so dumb? Well, he didn’t think of the ramifications! God had just told him, “Within a year, Sarah will give birth to a promised son” (Genesis 18:10). Now that “promise is put in jeopardy, traded away for personal safety” (Derek Kidner). It was a dumb move. My dear friends, please don’t make the same mistake.
DON’T LOSE YOUR INTEGRITY.
Don’t lie just to save your own skin. I like the way Will Rogers put it a long time ago: “Live so that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.” (Will Rogers, actor, writer, and speaker, 1879–1935; www.PreachingToday.com)
Peter Greer’s book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, talks about Greg Mortenson, who became an instant celebrity after the publication of his bestselling book, Three Cups of Tea. Greg Mortenson had been a mountain climber, who started a charity to create educational opportunities for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Unfortunately, Mortenson's story had some major holes. For instance, at one point Mortenson writes a captivating story about being held hostage by the Taliban. He even had a photo to prove it. But it turns out the men in the photo, his alleged “captors,” were not the Taliban. One of the so-called “captors” was actually a renowned research director named Mansur Khan Mahsud, who said that Mortenson was a guest, not a hostage.
Mortenson, admits to some exaggeration in his story, arguing that he had to stretch the truth to help those in need. However, his embellishments led him to places he never wanted to go.
The media crucified Mortenson. Reporter Jon Krakauer claimed that Mortenson was using the organization as a “private ATM machine” to buy things like personal jets. An expose on 60 Minutes revealed that of the thirty schools in Mortenson's organization that they visited, about half were either no longer being funded or had been abandoned. Some were even used “to store spinach, or hay for livestock; others had not received any money from Mortenson's charity in years.”
Mortenson started with good intentions and a great idea, but after launching his organization he lost his moral bearings and betrayed the trust of many people. (Peter Greer, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, Bethany, 2013, pp. 68-69; www. PreachingToday.com)