Tools for Living

Integrity and Religious Faith

“It’s not what we profess, but what we practice, that gives us integrity.” ~Sir Francis Bacon

 

All of the world’s great religions praise Integrity as a principal spiritual virtue. The seminal Taoist text, Tao Te Ching (The Classic of Virtue and the Way), is a treatise in 84 short chapters on personal integrity—that is, living in harmony with eternal spiritual laws—and on what it means for a leader to act with integrity.

The Eight-fold Path of Buddhism—that is, right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration—is nothing if not a complete guide to living with integrity in every sphere of life.

In the ancient Hebrew Book of Job, God’s praise of Job demonstrates how much He values integrity:

Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains in integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” (Job 2:3 NIV)

In the Book of Kings, God appears to Solomon after building the Temple in Jerusalem, and says:

As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever….” (I Kings 9:4-5 NIV)

And David not only notes God’s love of integrity several times in his Psalms, but also says in his final public prayer before handing the kingdom over to Solomon, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent.” (I Chronicles 29:17)

Any Christian who takes the Gospel teachings of Jesus seriously must regard integrity as one of the greatest spiritual virtues. He praised it repeatedly in the manual for living known as the Sermon on the Mount, starting with the beatitudes, saying “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8 NIV)

He further said that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NIV) In subsequent passages he advises eliminating any part of ourselves that threatens our spiritual integrity (Matthew 5:27-30), doing good to all indiscriminately regardless of how they treat us (Matthew 5:43-48), not being hypocrites (Matthew 6:1-16), and He stresses that if we would serve God we must do so wholeheartedly—and that is not consistent with pursuing selfish ends such as money. (Matthew 6:24)

Lest there be any doubt about the importance of integrity in Jesus’s eyes, we need only look at the final days of His ministry in Jerusalem. The act that set the ruling priesthood against Him came when He took up a whip and angrily drove the money lenders and merchants from the grounds of the Temple. By profiteering from pilgrims coming to worship, they corrupted the integrity of the Temple as a holy place. (Matthew 21:12-13)

Later He preached a lengthy sermon condemning the Pharisees and teachers of the law as hypocrites, claiming that they and their followers obey the narrow letter of the law on the outside while they are corrupt, greedy, self-indulgent, and spiritually dead on the inside. (Matthew 23:1-39)

Thus we see Jesus, like David before him, describing integrity—also called “pureness of heart” or”righteousness”—as the essential spiritual virtue necessary to know God. And we also see Him condemning hypocrisy—the opposite of integrity—as the essential vice of “blind guides” and “sons of hell.” (Matthew 23:15-16)

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Quotes about Integrity:

“He who walks in the way of integrity shall minister to me.” ~ Psalm 101:6

“Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.” Psalms 7:8

“In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.” Psalm 41:12

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” ~ 1 Chronicles 29:17

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” ~Proverbs 10:9

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” ~ Proverbs 11:3

“They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” ~ Mark 12:14

“It’s not what we profess, but what we practice, that gives us integrity.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon

“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” ~ Chinua Achebe,

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” ~ Mark Twain

“Character is higher than intellect.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there.” ~ Indira Gandhi

“Character is easier kept than recovered.” ~ Thomas Paine

“Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” ~ Billy Graham

Links to articles about Integrity:

“Do You Have Spiritual Integrity?” by Patrick Morley

Father Joseph Pellegrino on “Integrity: The Lord’s and Ours”

“Key Character Qualities in Buddhism and Taoism,” by James Quirk

Kenneth Boa at bible.org on “Integrity”

“Integrity,” from The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity

The eight-fold path of Buddhism is all about living with integrity

“Spiritual Integrity,” a sermon by Chris Glaser

“Jesus on Integrity,” a sermon by Jeffery Anselmi

From scribd.com, “The Eight-Fold Path of Bhagwan Buddha”

Paul L. Walker, “Integrity—Reality or Illusion?”

Charlie Cross on attitudes and actions that testify to spiritual integrity

And for those who desire a more intellectual challenge, Jan Gormas’s Character Counts: The Power of Personal Integrity
Dr. Dyer describes the relationship between character and conduct. Using illustrations from Biblical narratives, he shows what it means to live with integrity in every dimension of our lives.

 

 

Recommended books:

John MacArthur, The Power of Integrity: Building a Life Without Compromise
Pastor MacArthur writes about integrity as a quintessential Christian value and describes how we can put it to work for God in our lives.

Rami Shapiro, Minyan: Ten Principles for Living a Life of Integrity
Rabbi Shapiro discusses ten universal spiritual principles and practices which awaken and expand the spiritual integrity of our lives.

Charles H. Dyer, Character Counts: The Power of Personal Integrity
Dr. Dyer describes the relationship between character and conduct. Using illustrations from Biblical narratives, he shows what it means to live with integrity in every dimension of our lives.