Summary: #20 in the Book of James Series. Integrity must be the mark of every true Christian. We must watch the words we speak lest we ruin that integrity.
20 Words of Integrity
The Book of James
By Pastor Jim May
Several years ago, a man in Long Beach, California went into a fried chicken place and bought a couple of chicken dinners for himself and his date late one afternoon. The young cashier at the counter inadvertently gave him the proceeds from the day-a whole bag of money (much of it cash) instead of fried chicken. The store manager had placed the deposit inside a bag that was used for chicken orders.
After driving home, the two of them sat down to open the meal and enjoy some chicken together. They discovered a whole lot more than chicken--over $800! The man was honest and quickly put the money back in the bag, got back into the car and drove back to the restaurant. He got out, walked in, and became an instant hero. By then the manager was frantic. Losing that money meant his job along with the cashier.
The guy with the bag of money looked the manager in the eye and said, "I want you to know I came by to get a couple of chicken dinners and wound up with all this money. Here, take it back." Well, the manager was thrilled to death. He said, "Wow, let me call the newspaper. I’m going to have your picture put in the local newspaper. You’re the most honest man I’ve ever met." But the honest man quickly said, "Oh no, no, don’t do that!" Then he leaned closer and whispered to the manager, "The woman waiting for me in the car is not my wife and I don’t want my wife to know that I’m having an affair.”
Now there’s a man who has a real problem with integrity. He may be honest in some ways, but he’s a cheat and a liar in others. He has no integrity.
Integrity means that you are the same all the time. Honesty is a virtue but without loyalty and truthfulness, it really means nothing. An honest man who lies isn’t an honest man. A man who cheats on his wife doesn’t have loyalty, and he has a real problem with true love as well.
James tells us that we should have integrity. Though he does not use the word integrity, the meaning of verse 12 of chapter 5 has everything to do with integrity.
Not only that, but James is also continuing his teaching about controlling the tongue and being careful of what you say. As one man told another, “Son, your mouth is writing checks that your body can’t cash. You’d best be quiet before you bankrupt your mind.”
We usually think of someone with integrity as someone who is completely honest and totally moral, and never wavers under pressure. We think of them as someone who can keep their word because their word is their bond. You don’t have to sign a contract in triplicate to force them to fulfill their vows. When they say something, you can take it to the bank. Do you know people with integrity? I believe you do. But I also believe that many of the people that I meet do not have integrity. How many would you trust with a checkbook filled with signed checks or one of your credit or debit cards? If you can’t trust them, there is a reason, and that reason is that they have no integrity.
I like the story of one little boy who understood what it takes to have real integrity. A lady was sitting in her beach chair on a Florida beach when the little boy, in his swimming trunks, and carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, "Do you believe in God?" She was surprised by the question but she replied, "Why, yes, I do." Then he asked her: "Do you go to church every Sunday?" Again, her answer was "Yes!" He then asked: "Do you read your Bible and pray everyday?" Again she said, "Yes!" She began to wonder where the question were leading to when The little boy gave a sigh of relief and said, "I finally found the right person. Will you hold my quarter for me while I go in swimming?"
So what does James say about controlling your tongue and having integrity?
James 5:12, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation."
It all has to do with the condition of the heart, your ability to communicate, and your ability to control your tongue under stress, frustration and/or impatience.
A Christian with real integrity knows how, and is able to control his tongue under all conditions. For too many of us, stress, frustration and impatience cause us to throw integrity to the wind and we say and so things that are not very Christ like.