Each election year, my mind returns to Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 10:2: “A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left” (NASB).
OK, so that’s a joke. (One that I enjoy telling!) But seriously, consider these words from Solomon’s pen as we near November:
He who walks in integrity walks securely,
But he who perverts his ways will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9)
Go back and read that again. Integrity matters in the public arena. Several biblical examples come to mind.
By the time Job had reared his family, established himself in the business world, and gotten up in years, he had become “the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3).
Joseph became Potiphar’s personal servant and later was put in charge over all Potiphar owned (Genesis 39:5). Whether before the workers or handling huge sums of money or serving a large group of guests or all alone with Mrs. Potiphar, Joseph could be trusted.
Daniel also comes to mind. When he came up for promotion to prime minister, those who envied him “began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel” (Daniel 6:4). They struck out. There was zero dirt…no cover-up. After every attempt to dig up some questionable issue, “they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption” anywhere (6:4). Like Job and Joseph, Daniel walked securely in his integrity. He never feared being “found out.”
What did these individuals have in common? Perfection? No, each person I’ve named was far from perfect. Easy times? Hardly. A closer look reveals heartaches and hardships that would make your head swim. Well, how about an impressive presence, carefully choreographed by a public-image department? Don’t make me laugh. We could dream up a half dozen other possibilities that some cynic might suggest, but they would be as far off target as those I’ve mentioned.
What these individuals had in common was integrity. It is easy to overlook that essential ingredient among leaders in our times…especially during an election year.
We have grown accustomed to shrugging off secretive and deceptive lifestyles. We’ve heard so often that finding people who value honesty and model responsibility; who promote fairness, accountability, loyalty, and respect for others; and who hold to strong, upright convictions is not possible. It’s not realistic. “We’re voting for a president, not the pope,” we’re told.
In response to such an analogy, I’ll quote an ancient Hebrew term: “Hogwash.”
Call me old-fashioned or idealistic, but my passionate plea is that we restore the importance of integrity. It’s been buried long enough. It belongs first on our list when searching for employees in the workplace. It must be a non-negotiable among those we place in leadership positions in our schools, our cities, our states…and, absolutely, our churches and our nation. Integrity is what wholesome parents strive to cultivate in their children. It’s what great moms and dads look for and long for among those their teenagers date. It’s the foundational quality that all of us expect from the circle of professionals and labourers who serve us. We may not say it every time, but deep down in our souls, we long for and expect integrity. When it is lacking, we feel it and we are disappointed. Integrity is the “given” in greatness.
It is integrity we need, I repeat, not perfection. From our nation’s beginnings, back when great men and women, albeit imperfect, occupied places of leadership, public officials exhibited true virtue…dignity, self-mastery, resoluteness, determination, strength of will, moral purity, and sacrificial patriotism. They were selected and elected because they were examples in public leadership and in private life. Because some have failed to live up to the minimal standard does not change the ideal.
Solomon was right. Those with integrity walk securely…with no fear of being “found out.” We must ask God to help us choose such leaders, and we must strive to possess integrity ourselves, no matter who lives in the White House. If men such as Job and Joseph and Daniel could demonstrate integrity in the worst of times, today you and I can too.
And because we can, we must.