Let us notice that Solomon says that “most men (mankind)” will proclaim his own goodness. Yet, Solomon says that the righteous man walks in his integrity. Integrity will be the overarching keyword for my sermon today. It seems that in the days we are living in, it is either lacking or completely missing in our society. Why is that the case?
Honestly, we have become confused as a society to true integrity. There are people who present themselves as having high integrity, but in their actions we see otherwise. You see, the real truth is that there are two types of integrity at work in our world today. There is an integrity that is imperfect, and then there is an integrity that is perfect. So, what I would like to do for a moment today is focus on both the integrity that is imperfect and the integrity that is perfect.
Daniel, his friends, and Nebuchadnezzar
In our background scripture for today’s sermon (Dan. 3:1-7), we see a really good example of what I want to focus on in my sermon for today. If you are not familiar with the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, I will quickly sum it up for you. Nebuchadnezzar was ruler and king of Babylon. Like most kings during that age, he thought very highly of himself, his ways, and his gods.
So, those that he ruled over, he commanded should live by his way. At one point, we find that he tries to force a diet on Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan. 1:6-21). This man thought so highly of himself that he had a golden image made of himself and commanded that it be worshiped by the people! Does he sound like he was a man of high character to you? The interesting reaction would be the response from Daniel and his friends.
You see, in that secular society where there was the clearly idolatry and paganism at hand, we find that Daniel and his friends had a decision to make. Do they compromise on their principles for another man’s principles or do they stand firm on their principles. At both occasions, Daniel nor his friends compromised on their principles.
Daniel and his friends refused to eat of the king’s food and drink his wine (Dan. 1:8). Then, when his friends were pressured to compromise on their principles and worship that golden image, they chose to burn in a fiery furnace than do so (Dan. 3:16-18). We find that these young men chose to stay true to their principles! In doing so, these men showed that their integrity was true and perfect.
This type of integrity does not come natural to anybody. True and perfect integrity is the type of integrity that we all ought to aim for! The question is whether or not we are actually aiming for it or are we settling for imperfect integrity. You see, Nebuchadnezzar was likely thought of to be a man of integrity (since he was king) but would any of us describe him as a man of high integrity?
The integrity of a man
When you hear the word “integrity”, what comes to your mind? Dependable, honest, trustworthy are some of the words that immediately pop into my mind. We would likely think of someone who is a “stand up” type of person. Someone who is of high integrity, would always look out for those around them and then do right by them. The last thing you would expect is for the person of high integrity to lie to your face.
Man’s integrity is imperfect
There lies the greatest issue with man’s integrity – we will lie to your face (and smile)! The world is full of sin and we are born in that sin. Many of us live in sin and become products of sin. We become full of our own self preservation and many of us will do nearly anything to get ahead. Therefore, because we are of sin, that means that our integrity is also of sin and so our integrity becomes imperfect.
Solomon said (Prov. 20:6), “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness (loyalty/trustworthiness).” This is definitely true! Many people simply can’t admit when they have done wrong or made a mistake! How can you be a person of true integrity when you can’t be humble enough to admit your errors?
We lie to one another and when we get caught in the lie, we try to make it appear like our lie was the truth in some kind of way. One will cheat on another, and the person who did the cheating will find a reason to fault the other that they have cheated on. It’s terrible that this is our society, but again, Solomon asked, “who can find a faithful (trustworthy) man (person)?”
Integrity defined by the Lord
Solomon wrote (Prov. 20:7) that “the righteous man walks in his integrity.” We find that this integrity must be a different kind of integrity. IF this man is a righteous man, that means he has been made righteous, and the only one that is capable of making anybody righteous is Christ. So, we find that this integrity is not defined by man’s definition of the word, but defined by the actions of Christ.
Let us consider for a moment what Paul wrote. Paul wrote (Phil. 4:8) that we should meditate on these things (as believers): whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, and of any virtue, or are praiseworthy. These things, as a believer, should be our focus! If you are going to be the faithful and trustworthy – a person of integrity – it begins with your mindset.
Let us notice that these things that Paul mentions are all connected to Christ and who He was and is. Christ is the truth. Jesus said (John 14:6), “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Christ is also what is noble (honest), just (righteous), pure (He knew no sin). Jesus is the good report (good word) and is certainly praiseworthy!
Nobody can present true and perfect integrity if they do not know Christ nor walk in the way of Christ! Yes, there are good people who have great integrity but if they are not living by the principles set by Christ, then they are not aiming towards that perfect integrity. There are also many so-called believers who are not aiming towards perfect integrity because they do not live by His principles.
True Christian integrity in our world
Last Sunday I asked the question: will God still be your God on your worst day? Our society today, like Daniel’s society, is becoming more and more secular in spirit. The choice that we have to make is whether we are going to compromise in our principles or not. True Christian integrity should always aim at holding to Christ’s principles.
The moral compass of so many people is off because they try to intermingle their Christian principles with sinful principles and the only thing this does is perverse Christ’s principles. In other words, they compromise in their principles. Sadly, many people compromise on their Christian principles so that they can please those around them. (This is what Nebuchadnezzar wanted from Daniel and his friends. He wished they would compromise for his own satisfaction.)
The only person that we, the genuine believer, should ever be concerned about pleasing is the Lord! We see in the story of Daniel that both Daniel and his friends were blessed by God through their integrity. They ended up being in great health, knowledge, skills, and wisdom (Dan. 1:17). God brought Daniel’s friends out of the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:26-27) and later in life delivered Daniel in the Lion’s den (Dan. 6:18-23).
There are many people who will compromise on their principles if it means that they can “get ahead”. (They’re typically trying to be rewarded by man.) I will never compromise on my principles on the Lord just to “get ahead”. God means a lot to me. The principles of Christ – my faith – they mean a lot to me. God will bless the righteous who walk in their integrity! We must continue to focus on and meditate on the truth, what is honest, and right. Then we must live by what is true, honest, and right – never compromise.