Lack of Integrity is Disastrous
When have you hurt yourself through a bad choice?
In mathematics, an “integer” is a whole number such as 1, 2, or 3. The term comes from the Latin word meaning whole or complete. Not surprisingly, integer is the root of the English word “integrity,” which means firm adherence to a code of values. If you have integrity, you are undivided, unimpaired, and complete. You are a whole person, much as an integer is a whole number.
The Book of Proverbs was written to give advice about a life of integrity. In many places, it offers warnings about bad choices that can hurt us or impair us, making us less than the whole people that God wants us to be. While it often advises us to avoid actions that hurt other people, it also warns us about the ways that we can hurt ourselves and destroy our integrity.
In three short verses, Proverbs counsels us against disastrous moral, nutritional, and emotional choices. The author of the book, traditionally thought to be wise King Solomon, begins by saying, “A righteous person giving in to the wicked is like a contaminated spring or a polluted fountain” (Proverbs 25:26). Notice that the consequence of giving in to the wicked is not an earthly punishment or a divine rebuke. Instead, it is a contamination that pollutes our inner nature. When we make bad moral choices, we become people who are no longer in right relationship with God or with the people around us. We damage our own integrity, and become less trustworthy in the eyes of others.
We often make bad nutritional choices as well. “Eating too much honey isn’t good” says Proverbs (verse 27), knowing the damage to teeth and body that can be caused by consuming too many sweets. Two hundred years ago, the average American ate only two pounds of sugar a year. Today, we consume almost 152 pounds annually. Sugar is the most popular ingredient added to food in the US, and the effect on our teeth and our waistlines has been disastrous.
Bad choices can also be emotional. It is not “appropriate to seek honor” (verse 27), even though we love the sweetness of being validated by others. Instead, we should always see and maintain our inner worth. “A person without self-control is like a breached city,” says Proverbs, “one with no walls” (verse 28). When we seek pleasure in reckless and selfish ways, we break down the internal walls that maintain our wholeness and completeness. The result is a life of deep unhappiness and discontent.
In the end, good choices are more than a way to avoid punishment. They are the best path to inner wholeness, completeness, and peace.
Help me, God, to make choices that maintain my integrity. Amen.