Integrity and Christian Ethics
Part one on this topic covered ethics, examples of integrity, one’s internal compass of right and wrong, and the Golden Rule. Ethics without a moral foundation is like having a compass without a true north. That would be useless. You need the “true north” of personal conviction and ethics, which comes from God’s Word, if you’re going to have a functioning moral compass.
In Ethics 101, John C. Maxwell warns us that, from his point of view, there are five factors that can tarnish the Golden Rule as it applies to our personal integrity. To understand the complete message, you’d want to read the author’s explanation in full, but the general concept can be explained as follows:
While it is possible for people to act ethically, no matter what their social or economic status is, several factors prevent many from doing so.
The first is pressure, especially the pressure to succeed, and to do so quickly. To fight this pressure, make yourself slow down and examine what you’re doing. Begin this self-examination by asking yourself questions. Are you acting on the spur of the moment? Or out of fear or pride? Will your actions compromise your ethical code? It also helps to display reminders of the reasons you would want to act ethically, such as pictures of your family or symbols of your faith.
Pleasure is the second threat to ethical action. Pleasure tempts everyone. But decisions based on pleasure are weak decisions. Discipline is your primary weapon against pleasure’s temptations. Train yourself to do what you should.
Power is the third threat. If you focus on how much power you can obtain, what you can achieve, and what you can get away with, rather than on what you should do, you’ll go astray.
Closely linked to power is pride. If you feel self-important, you will only focus on yourself and how wonderful what you’re doing is, rather than looking at your actions with clear focus to see if you’re doing what you should.
Finally, a lack of priorities can cause you to act unethically. If you haven’t clearly established your priorities, you’ll stumble. You’ll act on a lesser priority when you should act on a greater one. To avoid this obstacle, review your priorities daily and judge your actions against them.—John C. Maxwell
It would benefit each of us to allot some time to think about these five “enemies” of the Golden Rule and how they’ve impacted our lives.
When we have integrity, we know our values, and can communicate them to others. We act on our values and live according to our convictions. We take responsibility for our decisions.
As Christians, our ethics should be centered on God’s Word and the principles He has put forth for His children. Following the truth of God’s Word, being motivated by His love, and seeking to be an example of a sincere Christian are touchstones for the decisions we make.
If you are looking to clarify and strengthen your personal ethics, if you want to build personal integrity, you can study God’s Word, meditate on His precepts, listen to His still small voice speaking to your heart, and ask Him to speak to you.
Besides building your personal integrity through such spiritual steps, there are practical steps that can be helpful as well, such as:
- Writing a personal mission statement.
- Promising carefully and always honoring your promises. Under promising and over delivering is better than the reverse.
- Being honest and avoiding exaggeration.
- Thinking before you speak, and then speaking carefully and intentionally.
- Following positive role models.
- Weighing your decisions so that they consistently reflect your ethical values.
- Drafting a personal Christian ethical code.—Robert L. Turknett and Carolyn N. Turknett
Here are some excerpts from real people’s ethical codes:
- I will not promise confidentiality in situations where I know the law requires me to divulge information.
- I will not knowingly profit from the ignorance of others.
- I will not create incentives for others to act unethically.
- I will stop bullies who are bullying someone, even if I don’t know them.
- I will not drive under the influence of alcohol. If I feel even slightly light-headed, I will get a ride or take a taxi.—Ronald A. Howard and Clinton D. Korver
Other points that represent a good code of ethics for a personal mission statement are:
- I will put the Lord first in my life and seek to please Him above all, even if this is not easy or convenient.
- I will witness the truth and do my best to lead others to salvation and the knowledge of Jesus.
- I will be an example of Jesus’ unconditional love and forgiveness to my spouse and children, even when I’m tempted to be impatient, angry, or judgmental.
- I will give of my time and finances to help God’s work and the mission.
- I will not abuse my body, the temple of God’s Spirit.
- I will not gossip or speak ill of others.
- I will not mislead others when promoting my business, charitable work, or projects.
There is the idea floating around these days that “nice guys finish last” or “nice girls don’t get the corner office.” But that’s not true. Not if “nice guys” or “nice girls” equal those who live good lives, who are kind and genuine, who know what they believe and stick to it; give of their time, service, and goods to others; sacrifice even to their own hurt when necessary, and put God and family first. Even if they don’t get the corner office in this world, they’ll finish first in God’s books and the race He has set before us.
There might be times when it looks like you’re losing or suffering because of your decisions to live according to godly principles and convictions, but that’s when the heavenly vision comes into the equation. You will never lose by putting Jesus and others first, and any sacrifice you make in this life will be more than repaid, not just in heaven but here and now. Jesus said:
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?—Mark 8:35–37
We all have the opportunity to live a life of no regrets! “The time is always right to do what is right!”—Martin Luther King Jr.
Do you strive to live a life of integrity based on Christian morals? You define what kind of person you are. Your actions and choices will convince people that you are “the genuine article”… or not.
Will you choose to do the right thing instead of taking the easy way out? How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to keep your integrity intact?
As Christians, people expect a lot of us. It’s our duty to strive to be an example of how Jesus would act and live. Thus our standard of integrity should align with biblical standards and what Jesus would expect us to have in our interactions and business with others. If we stray from that standard or act in unethical ways, we risk hurting people’s faith or even causing someone to turn away from the Lord. On the other hand, if you have strong Christian ethics and your integrity is rock solid, people will trust you, your mission work or business will be more fruitful, and you’ll be an example of Jesus’ love and truth. That equals success in our lives as Christians.
From the Roadmap series
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