Summary: This week we see integrity defined by Jesus in the form of several people ? and it gives us an idea of how we can have integrity when it comes to our dealings with God, with one another, and in our giving to the Lord.

Today we’re going to talk about the concept of integrity. Most of us when we think of integrity we mostly think of someone who is true to their word - and that’s a part of it, but that’s more accurately honesty than integrity.

To illustrate the principal of integrity I want you to come visit my back yard. We have a fence that we and the neighbors built together back in 1991. The fence has changed colors and the slats are further apart than when it was built due to the shrinkage of the wood - but for the most part it looks to be in good shape.

Towards the bottom of some slats on the south fence some moss started growing. I didn’t pay much attention - there is a lot of moss in that area, and it can be kind of pretty. My wife was cleaning up some of the moss the other day and when she went to scrape off the moss from the fence she discovered that there was more moss than wood remaining. If she had even gently pushed on the fence it would have crumbled away leaving a gaping hole.

The moss had apparently put its tendrils deep into the wood and disintegrated it from the inside out. What looked solid on the surface was in fact a faûze. That’s what integrity means - or in this case, the lack of integrity. Integrity, then, is being the same underneath as you are on the surface. It is honesty, yes - the fence was dishonest about its structural integrity - but it also sincerity, and reliability.

Today we’re going to see integrity defined by Jesus in the form of several people - and it will hopefully give us an idea of how we can have integrity when it comes to our dealings with God, with one another, and in our giving to the Lord.

Jesus has just gotten finished arguing with the Pharisees and Sadducees over: the authority of Jesus, the authority of government, and the authority of the Scriptures and their proper interpretation.

Specifically the Sadducees, who didn’t recognize the supernatural, were misinterpreting ideas about marriage. Jesus said to them: "you are badly mistaken." Given that - let’s look at the reaction Jesus gets to these answers from another teacher of the law.

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

Matthew tells us that the scene was kind of like a school yard fight - where each group took turns jabbing Jesus, trying to find His weakness - jabs, not with fists but with theological arguments and tricks. As each group took turns, the others watched - fighting not only their common enemy Jesus of Nazareth, but also trying to gain supremacy over one another. Matthew also tells us that this man was a Pharisee and that the Pharisees got together after the Sadducees failed in their attempt and sent this guy out.

But notice the difference - this man is not trying to fight Jesus, he is trying to learn from Him. And Jesus will respect anyone who comes to Him with honest questions. He was not prejudiced against the Pharisees or anyone - He was interested in whether they wanted a relationship - and this is the start of it.

29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: ’Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these."

Now its interesting because Jesus does not answer from the Ten Commandments, but rather from what is called the Shema - found in: Mark 12:29, Deut 6:4-9; 11:13-21; and Num 15:37-41. It was the creed of the Jewish faith and was recited each day in the morning and evening. Number one - you must know who God is - that He is the LORD and not the pantheon of other gods worshipped by the world.

The Pharisees were probably wanting Jesus to give His opinion as to the relative importance of the hundreds of rules and regulations that they had added to the Law and the balance between ritual, ethical, moral, and ceremonial laws - but Jesus sidestepped that debate and went to the heart of the matter - your relationship with God and how that relationship affects your relationship with others. This comes from Leviticus 19:18.

So knowing God, giving all of yourself to Him, then allowing His Spirit to empower you with agapao or self-giving love to others. That’s it. Love God and love people. It’s actually very simple, but because we are human and have this thing called the flesh to deal with - it isn’t as easy in practice as in theory.

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