Summary: Three benefits of integrity, and four ways to build greater integrity
Building Integrity,Extreme Makeover: Heart Edition November 3, 2007, Kevin McCarthy, Discover Church
Clingstone is a house that was built in 1905 on a peninsula in the Narraganset bay near Newport Rhode Island. It was constructed with heavy mill type framing, It’s shingled inside and outside, and was designed to withstand hurricane force winds. In 1938 a hurricane, dubbed the “long Island express,” roared through: my brother-in-law says that it washed out the peninsula road, but left the house atop it’s bedrock foundation. Today, Clingstone sits atop “Dumpling Island” –still standing,still in use, but accessible only by boat. What enabled Clingstone to withstand the Long Island Express? –Integrity –integrity of it’s foundation and it’s structure. We all need integrity, in our morality, spirituality, relationships, finances, and work habits. Without integrity, we’re likely to collapse under the weight of our character flaws, or get blown away by one of life’s storms, as Jesus warned his first followers: These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards." (Matthew 7:24-27, The Message) Now this paraphrase of a section of Jesus first, and longest teaching (the “sermon on the mount”) captures so well the critical nature of true integrity: congruency with God, and with self.
For the sake of understanding, let’s review some terms relating to moral integrity:
Ethics refers to your standard of right and wrong, good and evil –the values you believe in/hold to. the foundation you base your morality on. You can have bad ethics, just like a building can have a bad foundation. The leaning tower of Pizza is a great example of a structurally sound building on a faulty foundation. St. Paul wrote: Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11, MSG)
Morality is your lived standard of right and wrong, good and evil. It’s what you do that reveals most accurately what you believe. Jesus put it this way: “just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:20, NLT)
God’s advises us through the Apostle Paul to: Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. 1 Corinthians 3:11-14 MSG Life has a way of “inspecting” you, bringing you under scrutiny, doesn’t it? We need to live our lives as if they’ll be on display one day, because they will. Sow a thought, reap an action, sow an action, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.
Integrity means “sound, complete, integrated.” Its “The quality or state of being complete or undivided or incorruptible.” To the extent that your ethics and morality are integrated/aligned (or congruent) you have integrity.
Hypocrisy is the extent that your ethics and morality are not integrated, your lack of integrity. It’s the difference between what you practice and what you profess; How are we –the church in America- doing on the Integrity scale? Not well, according to the Barna Research Group who discovered this year that 85% of 16-29 year-olds outside of the church see Christians as somewhat or a lot hypocritical. Sadly, 47% of 16-29 year-olds within the church see born again Christians as hypocritical. [Unchristian, by David Kinnaman, President, Barna Research Group]. Hypocrisy was the number one thing Jesus criticized. He reserved his harshest words for religious hypocrites –those who denied or rationalized their lack of integrity. Here’s just one example from Matthew’s record: I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either. (Matthew 23:13, MSG)
Why develop Integrity? A. Integrity protects me. King David’s plea to God was this: May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you. Psalm 25:21 David knew what it was to have integrity, and to lack it –he learned the incredible value of integrity, and vulnerability of hypocrisy. How will integrity protect you? Here’s a few ways: