Integrity – A Long Forgotten Virtue!
Have we forgotten how important integrity is?
In this day and age where life is moving so fast that we barely have time to catch up, we have gradually been forced to replace ‘slow – burn’ virtues like integrity, faithfulness, chastity, etc with quick fixes like corruption, unfaithfulness, adultery, etc. The reasoning behind this exchange of virtues is – ‘everyone else is doing it, so there is nothing wrong’, or ‘one little sin will not hurt’, or ‘God knows how much I need this, he’ll understand if I bend the rules just this once’. As I thought about how the word integrity is gradually fading away from our conversations, I remembered Joseph and how he lived a life of integrity. Below are a couple of lessons from Joseph’s life.
1. A life of integrity is not always comfortable
If you are imagining that living with integrity will guarantee you a comfortable life, think again. The mere fact that you choose to stand for something that not many other people stand for will pit you against them. In the Old Testament, we see how Joseph’s choice to practise integrity put him in trouble!
A little background information first – angered by Joseph’s lofty dreams, his brothers conspired to kill him. Thankfully, this did not happen, as one of the brothers convinced them to sell him off to some traders, who in turn sold him to Potiphar. Potiphar was very happy with Joseph, as we see in the verses below.
Genesis 39: 2-4 “The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned. “(NLT)
Joseph was doing really well! He was running Potiphar’s house with integrity and within no time he was put in charge of the whole household! Not everybody was happy with his promotion, though, especially Potiphar’s wife. She did her very best to tempt Joseph into sleeping with her – so that she would destroy his integrity.
Genesis 39: 10-12 “She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.” (NLT)
Yaay! Joseph escaped! Or did he?
Genesis 39: 16-20 ” She kept the cloak with her until her husband came home. Then she told him her story. “That Hebrew slave you’ve brought into our house tried to come in and fool around with me,” she said. “But when I screamed, he ran outside, leaving his cloak with me!” Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.” (NLT)
Joseph’s integrity landed him in prison! Oh no!
At this point, many of us would be tempted to throw in the towel, right! Being thrown in prison for standing for what is right is not exactly the reward we expect, is it? Well, Joseph handled the situation differently. He knew that the God he served was faithful and that he would not forsake him, and he understood that even if nobody around him appreciated his integrity, God did. This fact leads to our next point.
2. The life of integrity does not have immediate rewards
Genesis 39:21-23 “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” (NLT)
From the verses above, we see that Joseph continued to thrive in the prison because his life pleased God. Despite the obvious discomfort of being in a strange land, away from his family and the comforts of home, he chose to be a person of integrity, even when imprisoned. It is no wonder that the warder found it fit to put him in charge of the other offenders.
The question is, did Joseph’s integrity eventually pay off?
We all know the story of the cupbearer and baker and their dream, don’t we? These dreams came true, and the cupbearer was restored to his position, where he forgot all about Joseph, even after Joseph had asked him to put in a good word for him. God had other plans, though. He caused Pharaoh to have two dreams that only Joseph could interpret! Joseph was summoned from the prison, cleaned up and taken to Pharaoh, where with God’s help, he was able to interpret the dreams and even advise Pharaoh on how to prepare for the coming famine. Pharaoh was so pleased with him that he made him ruler over all of Egypt, second in command to Pharaoh himself!
Genesis 41:39-41 “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” (NLT)
Wow! If Joseph had given up on his values halfway through and decided to live a life that did not please God, he would not have been made the ruler of Egypt, and his family would have perished during the famine.
Living a life of integrity, therefore, may not always be easy, convenient, make sense to those around you, or have immediate rewards. Such a life, however, makes perfect sense to God, our creator. He created us to live lives that please him, and to experience the blessings that come with obedience to him.
Friends, the next time someone questions your integrity, remember that the world is looking for an opportunity to see you fail, so they can rejoice. Why not take the road less travelled, and stand up for what you know is right – what pleases God. If you don’t feel strong enough to do so, ask God to help you. He is always ready and willing to help you to do what is right, for his glory.
Let me conclude with one of my all-time favorite verses.
Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (ESV)
Hi, everyone! As always, I would love to hear from you. Let me know what stood out for you in this article, and what comments you may have. If you loved the article, please share it with your friends. See you next week! Alison