By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
Integrity or hypocrisy: that is the question! This is a choice we must make. Someone suggested there are three types of people in the world, believers, unbelievers, and make-believers. Lord Bacon (1561-1626) stated, “An ill man is always ill; but he is then worst of all when he pretends to be a saint.”
Dr. Elon Foster (1833-1898) shares, “A farmer called on the Earl Fitzwilliam to inform him that his crop of wheat had been destroyed by his hounds. The gentleman inquired what his loss was. He thought fifty pounds would not more than repay it. The earl immediately gave him the money. As the harvest approached, the farmer found that his trampled wheat was the most luxuriant. He went again to the earl, and wished to return the money. ‘Ah!’ exclaimed the earl, ‘that is what I like: this is as it should be between man and man.’ Then, writing a check of one hundred pounds, presented it to the farmer, saying, ‘Take care of this, and, when your eldest son is of age, present it to him, and tell him the occasion that prompted it.”
From Psalm 26:1-12 we read, “Vindicate me, O Lord, / For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; / I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; / Try my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, / And I have walked in Your truth. I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, / Nor will I go in with hypocrites. I have hated the assembly of evildoers, / And will not sit with the wicked. I will wash my hands in innocence; / So I will go about Your altar, O Lord, / That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, / And tell of all Your wondrous works. Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house, / And the place where Your glory dwells. Do not gather my soul with sinners, / Nor my life with bloodthirsty men, / In whose hands is a sinister scheme, / And whose right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in my integrity; / Redeem me and be merciful to me. My foot stands in an even place; / In the congregations I will bless the Lord.”
Allow me to share what our passage teaches about integrity.
I. First, we find a Dedication to Integrity.
David declared, “I have walked in integrity” (Psalm 26:1) and “I will walk in integrity” (Psalm 26:11). Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) explains, “The word integrity here is the same which is elsewhere rendered perfection. See the Notes at Job i. 1. [1:1] Compare Psalm xxxvii. 37 [37:37]. See also Psalm vii. 8 [7:8]; Psalm xxv. 21 [25:21]; where the word is rendered, as here, integrity. It means here uprightness, sincerity. This is the first thing which he brings before God for him to examine - the consciousness that he had endeavored to live an upright life; and yet it is referred to as if he was sensible that he might have deceived himself, and therefore, he prays that God would determine whether his life had been really upright.”
God records the account of many who were dedicated to integrity. This is a sampling of those who demonstrate this sterling quality.
Noah demonstrated a dedication to integrity. In Ezekiel 14:12-14 we read, “The word of the Lord came again to me, saying: ‘Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it. Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,’ says the Lord God.”
Joseph demonstrated a dedication to integrity. We read in Genesis 39:1-10, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.”
Samuel demonstrated a dedication to integrity. From 1 Samuel 12:1-5 we read, “Now Samuel said to all Israel: ‘Indeed I have heeded your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you. And now here is the king, walking before you; and I am old and grayheaded, and look, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my childhood to this day. Here I am. Witness against me before the Lord and before His anointed: Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes? I will restore it to you.’ And they said, ‘You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand.’ Then he said to them, ‘The Lord is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.’ And they answered, “He is witness.”
David demonstrated a dedication to integrity. From Psalm 78:70-72 we read, “He also chose David His servant, / And took him from the sheepfolds; / From following the ewes that had young He brought him, / To shepherd Jacob His people, / And Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, / And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.” In 1 Kings 9:4-9 we read, “Now if you [Solomon] 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 judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and will hiss, and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the Lord has brought all this calamity on them.’”
Abigail demonstrated a dedication to integrity. From 1 Samuel 25:2-3a, 32-35 we read, “Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel, and the man was very rich. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. The name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. And she was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance; but the man was harsh and evil in his doings. He was of the house of Caleb. . . . Then David said to Abigail: ‘Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand. For indeed, as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!’ So David received from her hand what she had brought him, and said to her, ‘Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.’”
Esther demonstrated a dedication to integrity. In Esther 2:7, 4:10-16 we read, “And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. . . . Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: ‘All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.’ So they told Mordecai Esther’s words. And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: ‘Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!’”
Job demonstrated a dedication to integrity. In Job 27:1-8 we read, “Moreover Job continued his discourse, and said: ‘As God lives, who has taken away my justice, / And the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, / As long as my breath is in me, / And the breath of God in my nostrils, / My lips will not speak wickedness, / Nor my tongue utter deceit. Far be it from me / That I should say you are right; / Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; / My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live. ‘May my enemy be like the wicked, / And he who rises up against me like the unrighteous. For what is the hope of the hypocrite, / Though he may gain much, / If God takes away his life?”
Daniel demonstrated a dedication to integrity. From Daniel 2:24-30 we read, “Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation.’ Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, ‘I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation.’ The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, ‘Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?’ Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, ‘The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.”
Mary the mother of Jesus demonstrated a dedication to integrity. We read in Luke 1:26-38, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
Hannah demonstrated a dedication to integrity. From 1 Samuel 1:11, 21-28, we read, “Then she made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head. . . . Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, ‘Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever.’ So Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the Lord establish His word.’ Then the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him. Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, ‘O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.’ So they worshiped the Lord there.”
Jesus demonstrated a dedication to integrity. In Luke 22:39-46 we read, “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, ‘Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.’”
Jesus is the ultimate example of integrity!
II. Second, we find a Deviation from Integrity.
The deviation from integrity is hypocrisy referred to as “dissimulation”. David testified in Psalm 26:4, “I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, / Nor will I go in with hypocrites.”
Dr. John Spencer (1630-1695) shares, “The Emperor Frederick the Third, when one said unto him he would go and find some place where no hypocrites inhabited, told him he must travel, then, far enough beyond the Sauromatae, or the Frozen Ocean; for yet, when he came there, he should find a hypocrite, if he found himself there. And it is true that omnis homo hypocrita, every man is a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is a lesson that every man readily takes out, it continues with age, it appears with infancy, the wise and learned practise it, the duller and more rude attain unto it. All are not fit for the wars, learning must have the picked and choicest wits, arts must have leisure and pains, but all sorts are apt enough, and thrive in the mystery of dissimulation. The whole throng of mankind is but a horse-fair of cheaters, the whole world a shop of counterfeit wares, a theatre of hypocritical disguises.”
Dr. Kenneth Boa warns, “If we fail to face up to our inadequacy, we fall into the trap of the Pharisees: hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the opposite of integrity, and this is precisely what Jesus accuses the Pharisees and teachers of the law of in Matthew 23. Six times in this sermon, he uses the stinging word ‘hypocrites’ (vv. 13, 15, 23, 24, 27, 29). Originally, a hypocrite meant an actor who put on a mask to assume a false identity while he played for the audience. This accusation would be particularly offensive to the Pharisees who hated all forms of Hellenization, including the Greek theatre. In essence, Jesus was calling them the very thing they hated.”
Judas Iscariot is a prime example of hypocrisy. From John 12:1-8 we read, “Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” Paul the Apostle writes in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”
Satan is the ultimate hypocrite. In 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 we read, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” We read in James 3:17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” From Proverbs 10:9 we read, “He who walks with integrity walks securely, / But he who perverts his ways will become known.” In Proverbs 11:3 we read, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, / But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.”
III. Third, we find a Deliberation about Integrity.
David prayed in Psalm 26:1-12, “Vindicate me, O Lord, / For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; / I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; / Try my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, / And I have walked in Your truth. I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, / Nor will I go in with hypocrites. I have hated the assembly of evildoers, / And will not sit with the wicked. I will wash my hands in innocence; / So I will go about Your altar, O Lord, / That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, / And tell of all Your wondrous works. Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house, / And the place where Your glory dwells. Do not gather my soul with sinners, / Nor my life with bloodthirsty men, / In whose hands is a sinister scheme, / And whose right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in my integrity; / Redeem me and be merciful to me. My foot stands in an even place; / In the congregations I will bless the Lord.”
David also prayed in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; / Try me, and know my anxieties; / And see if there is any wicked way in me, / And lead me in the way everlasting.” We read in Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, / And lean not on your own understanding; / In all your ways acknowledge Him, / And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; / Fear the Lord and depart from evil.”
Each day we must desire to be men and women of integrity. Each day we must decide to be men and women of integrity. Dr. Arthur G. Clarke shares in his Analytical Studies in the Psalms, “Integrity is the fellow and fruit of faith.” From Hebrews 11:1, 2 and 6 we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. . . . But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” In Romans 10:17 we read, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), a British poet and essayist, once said, "Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, but knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful." More recently, Warren Buffet recounted, "Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you."
Dr. D. Stuart Briscoe shared at the Moody Founder’s Week Conference in 1986 about his early days in banking. One day his boss instructed him, "If Mr. _______ calls for me, tell him I'm out." Briscoe replied, "Oh, are you planning to go somewhere?” "No, I just don't want to speak to him, so tell him I'm out." "Let me make sure I understand--Do you want me to lie for you?" The boss exploded in a fit of anger and outrage. Silently, Stuart prayed and suddenly God gave him the following brilliant response, "You should be happy, because if I won't lie for you, isn't it safe to assume that I won't lie to you?"
From the pages of Today in the Word we read, “During his time as a rancher, Theodore Roosevelt [1858-1919] and one of his cowpunchers lassoed a maverick steer, lit a fire, and prepared the branding irons. The part of the range they were on was claimed by Gregor Lang, one of Roosevelt's neighbors. According to the cattleman's rule, the steer therefore belonged to Lang. As his cowboy applied the brand, Roosevelt said, ‘Wait, it should be Lang's brand.’
‘That's all right, boss,’ said the cowboy.
‘But you're putting on my brand,’ Roosevelt said.
‘That's right,’ said the man.
‘Drop that iron,’ Roosevelt demanded, ‘and get back to the ranch and get out. I don't need you anymore. A man who will steal for me will steal from me.’"
Someone recently asked, “If the fate of America depended upon your integrity as a follower of Christ tomorrow, how different from today would tomorrow be?”
Integrity or hypocrisy: that is the question!
Francis Bacon, The Works of Lord Bacon with an Introductory Essay and a Portrait in Two Volumes, Volume I, (London: William Ball, 1838), p. 332
Elon Foster, New Cyclopedia of Prose Illustrations Adapted to Christian Teaching (New York: W. C. Palmer, Jr., & CO., 1875) #3319, p. 395
Albert Barnes, Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, on the Book of Psalms, in Three Volumes, Vol. I, Psalm 26, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1869), p. 231
John Spencer, Things New and Old: or, A Large Storehouse of Similes, Sentences, Allegories, Apophthegms, Adages, Apologues, Divine, Moral, Political, &c., With Their Several Applications, Collected and Observed from the Writings and Sayings of the Learned in all ages to this present, In Two Volumes, Vol. I, (London: William Tegg, 1869), #906, pp. 404-405
Kenneth Boa, The Perfect Leader: Practicing Leadership Qualities of God, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2006), pp. 20-21 [Also cited in a Series on “Leadership Qualities”, “Integrity”, Available from: http://bible.org/seriespage/integrity Accessed: 09/27/12]
A. G. Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1979), p.85
Kent Crockett, I Once Was Blind But Now I Squint, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2004), pp. 1-2
Kent Crockett, I Once Was Blind But Now I Squint, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2004), pp. 1-2
Today in the Word, (Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute, March 28, 1993), Available from: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/i/integrity.htm Accessed: 09/29/12
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
© February 10, 2013 All Rights Reserved