So, what is integrity? Physically, it could be understood as wholeness. As an example, if a boat hull has integrity, then it does not leak, it is whole. If a computer program has integrity, it performs what it was designed for without errors.
When it applies to our spiritual lives, a good definition from Google is: “Integrity is the quality of having strong ethical or moral principles and following them at all times, no matter who’s watching. A person with integrity acts with honesty, honour, and truthfulness.” To this could be added, “even when no one is watching except for God.”
Unfortunately, in this day and age, integrity can be difficult to find. During this current Covid crisis, we hear of politicians who enact lockdown rules for the safety of the population, but then go and break these same rules, especially when they think they will not be found out. One would say that they do not act with integrity. Similarly, there is much doubt about the integrity of the vote count in the recent US election. Was it fraudulent?
In the Bible, we find there are some people specifically mentioned because of their integrity. One of those was David. After Solomon had prayed dedicating the House of the Lord, God appeared to him and made this comment in 1 Kings 9:4-5. “Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgements, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever…”
So, God considered David had integrity and was upright. The Hebrew word translated integrity means completeness and innocence, whereas the Hebrew word translated uprightness means straight or even. In the Psalms are many statements of how David loved God’s Law and meditated on it continually. He loved God and His ways completely, even in spite of his occasional faults.
Another person whom God stated was upright was Job. Job himself claimed that he held fast his integrity (Job 27:5-6), and, in fact, when we read in the book of Job, chapters 29 and 31, we find a very comprehensive list of things that Job did correctly. This would explain why God said he was blameless prior to being tested (compare Job 1:8, Job 2:3). His problem was not lack of integrity but self-righteousness.
Let us now consider Ruth. She was a young widow living in the land of Moab, a woman of great integrity even though it is not stated as such. When her mother-in-law Naomi, also a widow, was leaving Moab to return to Israel, she recommended that her daughters-in-law return to Moab. However, Ruth refused to return, making the statement in Ruth 1:16-17, “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
She was willing to totally give up her whole past life, family and country, never wanting to return to it. Ruth’s integrity did not just consist of words, but when we follow the part of her life that is recorded, she served Naomi very well, working in the barley and wheat fields collecting the grain that God commanded to be left for the poor, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow (Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:19-21). Even though she had the right to glean according to God’s Law, she still asked permission, showing that humility was a part of her integrity (Ruth 2:7).
It was not only her hard physical labour that displayed her character, but she had a very good reputation that had been related to Boaz of all that she had done for her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:11-12). Her life showed her great integrity, and God rewarded her with a good husband and enabled her to be the great grandmother of David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ Himself.
Following these examples, and there are others that could also be mentioned, God expects us to live a life of integrity. It can be difficult always doing and saying what is right when many will disagree with us. And as persecution increases, especially for Christians, we should apply to ourselves what David said in Psalm 41:12: “As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And set me before Your face forever.”