One of my favorite uses of Google is as a dictionary. I simply type: “define __________ ” and fill in the blank with whatever word I want defined. Today I typed: define integrity. This is what I got:
the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
It’s about honesty. I would add that integrity means that quality of character that acts according to principles even when no one else is watching. Integrity is being consistent in our moral behavior. Just because I can get away with something does not mean that I should do it. Integrity says, “I know that I shouldn’t be doing this, so even though I could, I won’t.”
This week a lot of people had the opportunity to display integrity. Many failed. It seems that there was a system glitch that oversaw the EBT debit cards (food stamps) in Louisiana. For a brief time the cards had no limit—none. When people found out many flooded Wal-Mart and other supermarkets. Some people went to check out with multiple shopping carts filled to overflowing with groceries!
Let’s be honest – the people who took advantage of the glitch did nothing legally wrong. They were using the cards that had been given them. The glitch was not their doing (in a funny sidenote, Wal-Mart is blaming Xerox and Xerox turned around and is blaming Wal-Mart!).
While there was nothing illegal going on there was most certainly an issue of honesty and integrity. Just because a glitch allows you to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Every one of those people knew better. But when the restraints were removed there was no personal integrity to say, “Wow, what a funny glitch! I’m not gonna be a free-rider and take advantage of this.”
The Bible talks about integrity:
The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. 9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous—you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! (Psalm 7:7-9)
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. (Proverbs 28:6)
This post is not at all about poverty or social justice. I’m not opposed to the “haves” making sure that the “have nots” receive help. But this story does illustrate a human problem – when we think we can get away with something we will often do things we KNOW to be wrong.
Our issues may not be with food stamps. But we have other hidden issues that we wrestle with when we think no one is watching, when we feel like we can do it without consequence or repercussion.
Instead, let’s strive to be people of integrity. Let us live up to a quality of character that acts according to God’s principles even when no one else is watching.