Summary: When a person has "integrity," our words, actions, values, beliefs, principles, character, our hearts are one. As disciples of Jesus, who was the embodiment of integrity, our words and actions, our values are integral, are one, with our Lord.
“Caveat emptor” … “Buyer beware” … because what you see, well … it’s not what you always get … and that’s been the case, it seems, ever since we’ve been banned from the Garden of Eden.
We get our word “integrity” from a very ancient practice that was done to scam the consumers of pottery jugs and bowls. If a bowl or a jug had a crack in it, the manufacturer or vendor would mix up a little clay and water and “paint” over the flaws (fill them in). Voila … a “perfect” bowl or jug to the untrained eye … until you took it home and tried to use it and it either leaked or broke into pieces. A bowl or a jar or a plate with no cracks, that was solid, was said to have “integrity.”
The word “integrity” comes from the word “integer,” which means “whole” or “undivided.” You can’t tell if a person has integrity just by looking at them, can you? The only way you can tell is by pouring water into them, so to speak, to see if they leak or break into pieces.
Whole and undivided. To have integrity is to be complete, to have all of the parts of your life integrated, to have them intact, interconnected, uncorrupted, and operating together in a single unit. Integrity means that your acts … what you say or do … how you act and behave … not just under pressure but in your day-to-day life … is a genuine and accurate reflection of your internal values, beliefs, and principles.
What do we call a person whose words and actions don’t match? We call them “hypocrites.” Jesus once accused a group of scribes and Pharisees of being a bunch of hypocrites because they cleaned the outside of the cup … meaning they looked good and sounded good … but their actions exposed the greed and self-indulgence that filled their hearts. “First clean the inside of the cup,” Jesus commanded them, “so that the outside may also become clean” (Matthew 23:25)
When a person has integrity, their words, their actions, their values, their beliefs, their principles, their character, their hearts are “integrated.” They are whole and undivided. And when we meet or encounter such a person, we are intrigued, we are amazed … we want to be around them and we want to be like them. Such a person was a young man by the name of “Daniel.”
[Read Daniel 3:1-17 here]
In the year 605 bc, a young crown prince of the Babylonian Empire became Commander and Chief of the armies of Babylon. In the spring of that year, 605 bc, he marched his armies through Assyria, conquering everyone and everything that crossed his path. He continued marching his armies through Syria and Palestine, claiming victory after victory. By the year 597 bc, he began to invade Judah and then Jerusalem. On March 16, 597 bc., after a long siege, this crown prince, now King of Babylon, accepted the total surrender of Judah and Jerusalem by King Jehoiachim. This ambitious and power Babylonian king would go on to reign over the most powerful empire in the world at that time for the next 43 years.
During his reign, Nebuchadnezzar built the capital city of Babylon into THE most formidable fortress city the world had ever known. Rectangular in shape, it rose impressively above the desert in the land we now know as Iraq. The mighty Euphrates River flowed from north to south right through the middle of the city. The city was surrounded by 56 miles of double walls. The outer walls were 21 feet thick and 300 feet tall. There were 250 watchtowers over 400 feet tall (one every 60 feet. The inner walls were 11 feet thick, 300 feet tall, and extended 35 feet below ground. Some of the water from the Euphrates was diverted to form a moat around these mighty walls.
The city had eight gates, all of them impressive. But the most notable and famous was the “Ishtar Gate.” Unlike the other gates, which were made of stone, the Ishtar Gate was made of beautiful blue lazuli tile. The Ishtar Gate was not only notable for its beauty but the view it opened up on once you entered the city. You immediately awed by the sight of two citadels and Nebuchadnezzar’s enormous palace, considered to be one of the most magnificent palaces ever erected on earth.
As you passed through the Ishtar Gate you entered one of the seven wonders of the world – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar built the hanging gardens for his homesick queen. You would never expect to find a beautiful forest-covered mountain in the middle of a fortress city in the desert but there it was … a symbol of Nebuchadnezzar’s great wealth and power and determination.