The Only Witness That Matters
The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy. Hypocrites will betray their own words and commitments for personal gain. Hypocrites will say what they must to gain a desired position, then do what it takes to benefit themselves.
A person of integrity, on the other hand, will claim only what is true about himself and only do what is right, regardless of the personal cost. This is the bad news about integrity. It often does not pay in the short run.
Genesis 39 tells the story of Joseph, a slave in Egypt who was owned by a man named Potiphar. Potiphar came to trust Joseph and put him in charge of his entire household.
Joseph happened to be a handsome man, and in time the lonely wife of Potiphar tried to seduce him. Joseph refused her, not because she was undesirable, but because his master trusted him. He would not betray that trust, even if doing so would be pleasurable in the moment and perhaps advantageous to his situation. Having the master’s wife for a secret ally is something that can pay dividends.
I wish I could tell you that the story of Joseph and Potiphar ended well. I wish I could tell you that Potiphar found out about Joseph’s integrity and rewarded him appropriately.
Alas, it was not to be. Potiphar’s wife was insulted and perhaps humiliated by his refusal. In a fit of anger, she accused him of attempted rape, and Joseph was thrown into prison. He spent several years there, and apparently was never cleared of the crime. His integrity and honesty eventually brought new and greater opportunities, but his faithfulness to Potiphar brought him no tangible rewards or benefits.
Now at this point you might want to stop me and make an observation or two.
“Isn’t this little Bible study supposed to encourage me to have integrity at work and in my life?” you might ask. “Because so far you’ve not painted a very pretty picture of integrity. The bad guys got away with a crime, and the good guy went to jail.”
Indeed. But this story gives us an opportunity to note something very important about integrity. Those who have it are committed to rightness and fairness and goodness, even if those things do not help them or bring immediate blessings.
You didn’t expect integrity to be easy, did you?
The difficult nature of integrity is precisely what makes it so valuable as we try to live a Christ-like life in our daily work. Our world has enough religious fancy talk and pretty Jesus words. Television preachers speak like angels, but their lives sometimes reveal a complete lack of discipline, devotion, and integrity. The people of our world are disillusioned by their hypocrisy.
People slap fish logos on their bumpers and talk loudly about Jesus around the water cooler, but when they are fighting for a promotion or seeking a bonus, they resort to the same dishonest and self-promoting tactics as anyone else. The people of our world are disillusioned by their lack of depth and their shallow commitment to the Christianity that they claim.
We live in a world where words are sold cheaply and self-preservation is the name of the game.
But I tell you truly that one person living a quiet, Christ-like life at work and maintaining her integrity, even if it costs her dearly, is a more powerful witness for Christ than all the TV preachers and water cooler Christians combined. Their words fall short, while her integrity bears witness to the truth that there is a reality greater than our own comfort and satisfaction. For Christians, that reality is found in the life and work of Jesus Christ.
Your integrity in your daily work is the only witness to Christ that truly matters. It may well be the only message our world can hear.