Summary: God demands that His children be people of integrity. People who are honest and reliable. This is the next-to-last test of faith that James gives us--the integrity test.
1. The importance of individual integrity
2. The implication of individual integrity
3. The intentionality of individual integrity
4. The incentive of individual integrity
This Wednesday night, American TV is hitting a new low. It’s almost hard to say that with all the trash that’s on TV these days, but it’s true. For years, Hollywood has played on our fallen, sinful tendencies. They have exploited our physical lusts with provocative, sexually charged images. They have fed our violent tendencies with increasingly brutal and graphic images. And they have profited from our covetous greed with a constant barrage of products that we “need”. But now, they’re going to tap into a sin they haven’t exploited as of yet. Now they’re going to glamorize something that nearly everyone claims to hate. Nearly everyone claims to hate a liar. But now good liars will have a chance to win a half-million dollars each week on TV. The show is called “The Moment of Truth.” Contestants will be asked a list of very personal, invasive questions before they come on the show. When they’re asked those questions, they will be hooked up to a lie detector. When they go on the show, they will be asked those same questions again—only this time in front of family and friends. It is possible for two kinds of people to be rewarded in that show. People who are completely honest—or people who are complete, unconscionable liars. Who do you think will be the contestants they’ll pick to be on the show? Which kind of person do you think will generate the highest ratings? Lying—a sin that was once repudiated by society is now going to be rewarded on TV. But is that really any surprise? A few years ago, the media was openly praising our President for how well he was able to lie. The thing that makes it so shocking is not that lying happens. Lying has always happened. It’s just that it is now becoming increasingly accepted as normal—even praiseworthy. Within a single generation, lying has gone from something that was universally scorned, to the White House, to a spectator sport. But just because acceptable lying is making it’s primetime debut on TV, doesn’t mean that it is acceptable. As a matter of fact, lying of any kind is completely unacceptable in God’s eyes. God demands that His children be people of integrity. People who are honest and reliable. This morning we’re looking at the next-to-last test of faith that James gives us. Remember that so far throughout this letter, he’s given us 7 tests that we can take to see if our faith is real or not. He’s given us the Bible test, the preference test, the works test, the tongue test, the wisdom test, the pride test and the patience test. This morning he gives us the integrity test. Like all the other tests we’ve looked at, this one is a pass / fail test. It’s not graded on the curve and it’s not multiple choice. But unlike the previous tests, this one is only one verse. It is short, sweet and to the point. And it is ever so convicting. This morning, I want each of us to be able to pass the integrity test. I want people to see us a people who are honest and reliable. In order to do that, we’re going to look at four issues involving individual integrity. The first issue is the importance of individual integrity.
Notice how James starts this verse. He starts by saying, “but above all things.” That phrase has given students of the Bible fits over the years. It’s given them fits, because it begs the question—“where does this verse fit?” “Above all WHAT things?” Is this verse a part of the verses that make up the patience test we talked about last week? If so, why is he saying that we need to be people of integrity over and above all the traits of being patient? It’s important to ask yourself those types of questions when you’re doing your Bible study. Because one of the most important keys to understanding passages in the Bible is understanding them in context. There is a very good saying about studying Bible verses in context. It says, “a TEXT without a CONTEXT is a PRETEXT.” In other words, you can make a verse say a whole lot of things it doesn’t say if you don’t keep it in the context it was written in. Well, when you do that and place this verse in its proper context, you see what the “all things” he’s talking about are. He’s saying that your personal integrity is above all the things he’s talked about so far in his letter. In other words, of the seven test of faith James has given us so far, this one is “above all.” That brings up the next question. What does he mean by above all? Is he saying that, of all those seven tests—the Bible test, the preference test, the works test, the tongue test, the wisdom test, the pride test and the patience test—is he saying that, of all those tests, this is the first one you take care of? Is it the most important? If you take care of this one and slip up on some of the others, are you OK? No, by commanding us to “above all” be people of integrity, James is telling us that our personal integrity is preeminent. It is the king that rules over the other seven areas. Your integrity will rule over how you view the Bible. A person with no integrity will see the Bible as something to twist and contort into something that suits them or makes them feel better. Your integrity rules over whether you show preference to people or not. A person with no integrity will show favoritism and form cliques and hold themselves in judgment over others. Your integrity rules over how you perform good works. A person with no integrity will do good works for personal recognition or for what they can get out of it. Your integrity rules over how you use your tongue. A person with no integrity will use their tongue to control and manipulate and consume and condemn people. Your integrity rules over your wisdom. A person with no integrity seeks and possesses wisdom that is earthly, sensual and of the devil. Wisdom that only results in strife and confusion and evil works. Your integrity rules over your pride. A person with no integrity is selfish. They are presumptive. And they are greedy. Finally, your integrity rules over how you practice patience. A person with no integrity cannot patiently endure because they have no rock to anchor to. But not only is our individual integrity preeminent over those 7 areas, it is pervasive. In other words, it runs through and through each of those other seven areas. Passing those previous seven tests will insure that we are people of integrity. But at the same time, we cannot pass those tests without “above all” being people of integrity. Individual integrity isn’t just the next thing to accomplish on your to-do list. If your individual integrity isn’t “above all”, you can’t pass any of these tests we’ve been talking about for the last few months. That’s how important it is. Individual integrity is that important. The first issue involving individual integrity is the importance of individual integrity. The second issue is the implication of individual integrity. Look a little bit farther in verse 12.