Summary: Christians need integrity in these important areas: Money, Sex, Power.
The news has been rife with stories of the lack of integrity in our culture. First it was the Enron scandal and the accounting firm of Arthur Anderson. Then it was WorldCom. Even Martha Stewart, the apron-clad icon of hominess, has been brought into disrepute through what appears to be unscrupulous business methods and practices. Something as American as baseball now has multimillion dollar players striking for more money. The Roman Catholic Church is embroiled in one of the worst scandals which anyone in several generations has seen. Our political leaders have had more than their share of scandals and corruption.
The Columbus Dispatch had two editorial cartoons this week which addressed the crisis we face as a culture. The first one had large office buildings on Wall Street with a single small building being crunched between them. The little building had one word written over it. . . “Ethics.” The message was clear that ethics has been squeezed out of the business world. The second cartoon had Moses on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments. Moses says to God: “Thou shalt keep thy dirty hands off of children? Well, duh. . . Do you really thing that needs to be spelled out?” Evidently it does, because the cartoonist adds the quip, “The editorial sin of assuming too much.”
The very politicians supposed to be protecting society are abusing the nation with their power. The very priests supposed to be protecting children are abusing them. The very companies who are supposed to make the free market economy work are damaging the economy through their shady business deals. Where are those people now, who said that character did not matter, and shouted to us the mantra: “It’s the economy stupid”? Now it is impossible not to see and understand that character affects the economy. A moral and spiritual collapse in the business world leads to an economic collapse, and eventually a cultural collapse if it is not dealt with. A moral meltdown in the church leads to a collapse of the church. A moral breakdown among political leaders leads to a collapse of the government. It ought to be abundantly clear by now that character does count and that you reap what you sow.
There are three areas that historically have been spiritual snares for people. These three are money, sex and power. People living without the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives are easy prey, but people claiming to be followers of Christ have also found themselves entangled in moral compromise in these areas. Even people in the church think they can get by with something, and realize too late that they have been living with the philosophy of the world that says, “It’s only wrong if you get caught.” It is very easy to be a Christian in every area of your life except one. You say to yourself that you will follow God except for one area that you will keep to yourself. When that happens, you will be destroyed by the one area that you are keeping from God. Not because God will punish you, but because that is the nature of sin. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). He also comes to enslave.
I want to look at these areas and talk about their implications for our life in God. Let’s look first at the area of finances. It is interesting that the areas of our greatest compromise are also the areas where there is the greatest secrecy. Money is certainly one of those areas. I am reminded of the story of a man in the Bible named Achan. The scene is the battle of Jericho where “the walls came tumblin’ down.” The Lord had directed the people not to take anything from Jericho, but Achan saw a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred pieces of silver and a gold wedge. He decided that in spite of what the Lord had clearly said, this was too good not to take. He took those things and dug a hole under his tent where he hid them. But his refusal to listen to God led to moral compromise, the compromise led to collapse, and Achan’s sin not only affected him, but the whole nation. They no longer had the moral strength to face their enemies, and they were defeated by them. His greed left him in ruins. The Bible says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
What would God say if he took a look at your credit card account? What would he think if he saw your checkbook or your tax return? This is not something separate from your spiritual life, this is your spiritual life. If you do not have financial integrity, you do not have integrity. If you are unethical in your financial dealings, you are unethical. If you have financial problems because of your financial misdealing, you have a spiritual problem. You cannot compartmentalize your life. You cannot put God in a corner and expect your life to go well. You cannot divide your life into spiritual things and secular things. When you are a Christian everything in your life is spiritual. Whatever you do in any area of life affects your spiritual life. The Bible says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). God is not reserved for church and special occasions; he is a part of your financial dealings, your relationships, your thought life, your motives and desires. It all belongs to him. You can’t keep anything for yourself. The problem is that it is all so easy in our culture. Just open up another credit card account. Just trade things from one account to another. Just go to one of the quick cash places that have proliferated around town. Just go online and get a loan.