The Value of Integrity

I recently read an article on how easy it is for a cannon ball to destroy the integrity of a ship’s hull. The article stemmed from the discovery of a 200 year old ship with a hull made of 3 feet of solid wood.  You guessed it, they found the ship at the bottom of the ocean.  Get this, it was sunk by a cannon ball that looked to be about the size of a softball! It doesn’t take much to compromise the most important part of a ship, the integrity of a its hull.

Unfortunately the same thing is true about us. It doesn’t take much for us to compromise our integrity either. What makes the compromising of our integrity so sad is the fact that just like the integrity of a ship’s hull is one of the most important parts of a ship so too our integrity is one of the most important aspects of our lives. This is because from a biblical perspective this means an unwavering commitment to keep God’s law, and uphold His truth. There are not too many issues more important than this. I would even argue that, as Christians, our integrity before the Lord is the only thing we can really control.  Think about it.  You can’t control your circumstances… you can’t control how people treat you… you can’t control another person’s integrity… all of these are under God’s control.  You’re not responsible for any of these things.  You are, however, responsible for how you respond to these things.  In other words, you’re responsible for your own integrity.

This is why in God’s economy this kind of integrity is what truly has value.  Thus, integrity should be valuable to us as well.  In fact, this is just what we see in Proverbs 22:1-5.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all. The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.” (Proverbs 22:1–5, ESV)

This passage contains two specific principles principles that reveal the importance of integrity in the lives of God’s people.  Over the next few posts we will look at these principles.

I. Integrity is more valuable than human achievement (vv. 1-2)

The first principle that emerges from the text to reveal the importance of integrity in the lives of God’s people is the principle that integrity is more valuable than human achievement.  We see this principle in vv. 1-2.
This principle begins to unfold in v. 1 where we see the value of integrity.

a. The value of integrity (v. 1)

There is some question as to whether or not v. 1 really belongs with vv. 2-5.  However, I think that Garret is right when he says that “this text could be read as a prologue to vv. 2-5.” (186), That is to say, in v. 1 the topic of integrity is first introduced as Solomon extols the value of integrity.  And in v. 1 this value is seen initially in the high price of a good name.

            i.      the high price of a good name

As it says in v. 1, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth.” This “good name” is the good reputation that comes from living a life of integrity. Prov. 3:3-4 explains how this works:

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3–4, ESV)

Bruce Waltke adds this, “A good name is the outward expression of the person’s inner wisdom.” (199)  To put it another way, it is the outward reflection of inward integrity. The almost perfect biblical illustration of this concept is Joseph. At every step of the way Joseph exemplified what it means to be a man of integrity. An even better example, actually the completely perfect example is Jesus. Jesus perfectly exemplified Proverbs 22:1.  Look at what Luke 2:52 says about Jesus:

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52, ESV)

He was the perfect man of integrity, that is what made him the perfect substitute for our sins. In the eyes of Solomon a reputation built on integrity like that of Joseph & Jesus was to be chosen every single time even over great wealth. This is the meaning of the Hebrew verb translated by the NAS as “to be desired.”  It is the Niph form of בְחָר, which means “to chose.”  We are to chose integrity.This is pretty amazing since a good name is to be chosen even over great wealth.

If anyone knew this is was certainly Solomon.  Solomon was a man of great wealth (1 Kings 10:26-29).  If I was to provide this advice to you it would have to be in principle because I have never had great wealth.  But Solomon was speaking from personal experience.  The word of God backs up Solomon’s experience.  From the perspective of God’s word the good reputation that comes from a life of integrity is of immense value, and cannot be replaced with any amount of money.
The bible values the reputation that comes from a life of integrity.
ii.      the high price of favor

This principle is essentially restated in the latter half of v.1 where the value of integrity is seen in the high price of favor.
The principle is essentially the same.  A good reputation, or the fruit of a good reputation is valuable. Here Silver and Gold = Great wealth. Again the point is that the reputation earned through a life of integrity is valuable. It is one thing to have great wealth, but it is a better thing to have your integrity before God and man.  Wealth can, and will pass away (James 5:3), but a good name endures.

At this point we need to be careful to understand the implications of this verse precisely. This verse should not motivate us to pursue the approval of man as an end in and of itself.  When this passage teaches us of the high value of a good name and favor the implication is not that we should become “man-pleasers”, but rather that we should value our integrity which, in turn, will lead to a good name. Prov 29:25 is a good balance to this verse:

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25, ESV)

Our job is not to seek the approval of men, but ultimately a good reputation among men is the natural result of a good name before God through Jesus Christ. As we live our lives in a way that is consistent with the truth of the Gospel those around us will recognize that we value integrity.  This is an important part of the Christian life, especially for leaders in the church.  Paul made it a requirement for those pursuing pastoral ministry to “have a good reputation with those outside the church.” (1 Tim 3:7)

Here are some questions for us to think about:

  • Do we have a “good name” both within and outside of the church?
  • Do we value integrity to the point where those around us recognize it?  If not, then what is more valuable to you?  What are you willing to compromise your integrity for?
  • If you are compromising your integrity for any kind of wealth or human achievement, then v. 2 reveals that you are valuing the wrong thing.