A story is told of some young men who were late to class.

Four high school boys were late to their morning classes one day. They entered the classroom and solemnly told their teacher they were detained due to a flat tire. The sympathetic teacher smiled and told them it was too bad they were late because they had missed a test that morning. But she was willing to let them make it up. She gave them each a piece of paper and a pencil and sent them to four corners of the room. Then she told them they would pass if they could answer just one question:

Which tire was flat???

Talk about the lack of integrity in the country.

Integrity Uprightness of Character, honesty.

Looking for people of integrity in our generation perhaps could be compared to searching for a needle in a haystack. Indeed it may be easier to identify a grain of salt in a snowstorm.

What we are seeing in the Catholic church right now is a scramble for integrity. Everyone is talking about it and everyone is disgusted by what has gone on. I hear questions and comments nearly every day of how could this have happened?

Obviously, there were some very disturbed people in the clergy and some have covered it up…we will not know the total fallout for years

When this happened in the 80’s with Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Robert Tilton, and Larry Lea

Then others later Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Marcus Lamb

Galatians 6:1

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

How could something like this happen? Very easily I’m afraid

Jim Bakker stopped praying stopped being in the word 3 years earlier

We have seen the gifts of God, whatever they are, or the blessings of God whatever they are, on us still even though there is a little sin here or there. It doesn’t take long for that sin to overwhelm us and watch our integrity fail.

Let me explain what I mean

True men and women of integrity or rare indeed.

Are you one of them?Is your life characterized by integrity? The Bible clearly indicates that our lives should be. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that we should be as good as our word. Are you as good as your word?

We used to teach our children that our reputation was extremely important. Parents would exhort children by telling them that they had worked hard to create a good name for themselves and that the children should work hard to maintain it.

Abraham Lincoln said “For a man to train up a child in the way he/she should go, he must walk that way himself.”

Have you ever wondered what people associate with your name? Do people say that you can be trusted, that you are reliable, that you can be counted on, that you are a man or woman of integrity? These things should be important to us because our lives speak volumes to those around us.

Matthew 5:33-37

 “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Leviticus 19:12 ’You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord. Explain that they took this to mean that they could with other things.

Jesus is saying that for our righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, our word must be good enough.

Jesus is not prohibiting oaths taken in a court of justice or oaths taken in the name of God on solemn religious occasions. Romans 9:1, Gal 1:20, 1 Cor 15:31, Paul swears oaths through Christ, Hebrews 6:13-14, God swears an oath to Abraham

Jesus is saying that we are not to swear as the religious leaders had been doing.

Matthew 23:16-18

“Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

I know this is one of the hard verses in the Bible but hear me out, please.

Jesus is saying, on one hand, you give your word, you make a promise with no intent to keep it “swearing by the altar of God” (God’s very presence) and then you make promises on things less valuable, “the gift on the altar” (the gold or other sacrifices) but on things that don’t really matter, are not eternal you swear making it possible for you to even change your mind and think you are maintaining your integrity.

As Christians, as people whose citizenship is in heaven, we must show integrity in our words and deeds. The keeping of our word depends on the actions that we take.

Integrity with words

Matthew 5:37

 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

James 5:12 

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

1 Timothy 4:12 

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

Integrity with your actions

– Toward people

At the age of twenty-four, Abraham Lincoln served as the postmaster of New Salem, Illinois, for which he was paid an annual salary of $55.70. Even then, twenty-four years before he entered the White House, the rail splitter was showing the character that earned him the title of “Honest Abe.” The New Salem post office was closed in 1836, but it was several years before an agent arrived from Shington to settle accounts with ex-postmaster Lincoln, who was a struggling lawyer not doing very well. The agent informed him that $17 was due the government. Lincoln crossed the room, opened an old trunk and took out a yellow cotton rag, bound with a string. Untying it, he spread out the cloth and there was the $17. He had been holding it untouched for all these years. “I never use any man’s money but my own,” he said.

It is not what we profess, but what we practice that makes us Christians.

People will judge our God and are doing so today, by the way, we act toward others. We must be people of integrity when we deal with all people. Jesus should affect how we conduct ourselves. When we say we are going to do something, it is as good as done!

Proverbs 20:7 

A righteous man who walks in his integrity How blessed are his sons after him.

– Toward God

Matthew 5:33

“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’

Deuteronomy 23:23 

“You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God, what you have promised.

In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira lied to God and that is why they were killed. They volunteered to give the proceeds of the sale of their land to God, but then they withheld part of it.

When we tell God that we are going to commit our lives to Him, we must fulfill that vow to Him. When we say that we love God, then we will keep His commandments.

Horace Greeley, newspaper publisher, and abolitionist had a quote that Harry Truman used to like: “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow, only one thing endures — character.”

Side note – character is revealed by the fruit of the Spirit active in every way in our lives

I know I started talking about the scandal in the Catholic church, you know I find it appalling and anti-Christ but I also must, as we talked about several weeks ago about judging,…challenge each one of us to live lives of integrity and to show by our actions toward each other and God that we are not like that…we must show the world what a true Christ-follower looks like and at the same time pray for those who are victims and for those who were the predators

If we can walk in the love of God and his grace toward this that not only scandalizes these children who many are adults now but even more so scandalizes the name of Christ the one who loves us the most then, we are true people of faith.

The Catholic church is going to have to deal with its issues but even more so we must live lives that reflect Integrity in all that we say and do….we can not sit in judgment if we have a lack of integrity in our lives

So this is a wake-up call to the church and all Christians everywhere that the Lord is depending on us to be a true reflection of Him in all we say and do! I am in no way excusing their lack of integrity but I am challenging each of us in ours!

What promises have you made to the Lord? your family? your boss? Your employees, your neighbors, can you be counted on to be a person of your word and the Word….does your life reflect the Word of God and Christ-likeness always?

I end with one of my favorite verses Matthew 5:16

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”