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A Man of Integrity

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Have you ever heard of a “secret shopper”? Contrary to what you might think, a “secret shopper” is not your wife or husband who goes on wild buying sprees and then hides the receipts and credit card bills. A “secret shopper” is an individual employed by retail companies to test the integrity of their salespeople.


There is a certain company, which does millions of dollars a year in retail sales. The owner decided to hire some secret shoppers and when you hear his story, you’ll understand why.

In the 20 years he’s been in business, he estimates over $500,000 is lost to employee theft - maybe as much as a million. He discovered that one employee in another state had ripped him off to the tune of $80,000 in cash. After firing her, he took the woman to court in an attempt to get the money back. As you might expect, it was all gone. The judge ordered her to pay it back at a rate of $50 a month, which, if you do the math, means the owner will get his money back in about 133 years.


So, he decided to hire secret shoppers. Their job is to go into a store, make a purchase when no other customers are around and pay the exact amount due in cash. But the trick is they don’t wait for the employee to ring up the sale. They just put the cash on the counter and say, “I’m in a hurry” and leave the worker alone with the money.


Some people ring up the sale as usual and put the money in the register. Others pocket the cash. A check of the register tapes at the end of the day reveals their actions, and the ones without integrity, those who have pocketed the cash, are history - they lose their jobs.


This lack of integrity goes on around us everyday in every walk of life.  In our ever-changing society, the way people view values seems to be changing faster than the weather.  But make no mistake about it, though it may seem that an old-fashioned value like integrity just isn’t in style anymore, nothing could be further from the truth. Integrity is vitally important. It’s indispensable. Every person who hopes to experience lasting success in any area of life - in a job, friendship, a business deal, marriage – they must pass the test of integrity.  (Pause) Of course, it would help to know exactly what we’re talking about when we use the word integrity. Several dictionaries give different definitions for it. One defined integrity as honesty, sincerity, and uprightness.  Another said it was adherence to a code or standard of values.  Still another defined it as moral or ethical strength. Webster’s defines integrity as “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral values”.


While those are excellent definitions, the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that the best way to define integrity is in terms of a question. And that question, very simply, is this: “Can I be trusted when no one is looking?” “Can I be trusted when no one is looking?”  Can I be trusted to not steal from my employer when I’m alone in the store? Can I be trusted to honor my marriage vows when I’m by myself on a business trip? Can I hear the deep dark secret of a friend and be trusted to not blab it to the world behind their back? Can I be trusted to surf past the sexual immorality on the internet or cable when no one else is around?

Can I be trusted when no one is looking?

That question reveals the degree of integrity that is present in our character. And our answer to it is a reliable predictor of our future success or failure. Notice that the issue is not “do others trust me?” That’s a measure of image, not integrity. The issue is ... when I examine what’s behind the image that I project when others are watching ... do I really deserve their trust? That’s the true measure of integrity.


Now, I want you to suspend that thought for just a minute and I want you to mentally travel with me to the land of Egypt some 2,000 years before Christ, to the time and place of Joseph, the son of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham.  When Joseph had bragged to his older brothers of the visions God had given him - visions in which he became ruler over them and even over their father – his brothers became extremely jealous.


And this jealousy drove them to do what with Joseph? They sold him to some Ishmaelite slave traders - jealous enough to sell him into slavery and trick their father into believing that he had been mauled and devoured by a wild animal. You will find that part of the story in chapter 37 of Genesis. 


Now let’s pick up the reading in chapter 39 verse 1. Here we read; 

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.  Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelite who had taken him there.”  One translation says that not only was Potiphar the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, he was the chief executioner.  That’s a fairly tough character.  Talk about bad breaks. It’s one thing to be sold into slavery, but to wind up as the property of the toughest guy in all of Egypt - that’s pretty rough. But looks what happened, verse 2; “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything that he owned” 


Back in chapter 37 Joseph was at the bottom of the well, literally and figuratively when his brothers threw him into the well.  He had gone from being the favored son to outcast and then sold into bondage.  But all through this God was with Joseph.  Joseph never faltered in his love and obedience to God and God honored that.  And when Joseph was sold to Potiphar and the climb out from the pit began. Verse 5; “From the time he put him in charge of his household and he entrusted to his care everything he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph.  The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.”  As a result ... “So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had, with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.”


Now, get the picture here. Joseph, a slave---a foreigner, has total control over the estate and affairs of the highest ranking official in Egypt other than the Pharaoh himself. That’s pretty incredible, don’t you think? That kind of thing doesn’t happen unless people trust you. And obviously, Potiphar trusted Joseph. The only thing that Potiphar worried about was when dinner was.


But, as we’ve seen integrity is not “do others trust you?” It’s “can you be trusted when no one is looking?” And Joseph was about to face that test. Continuing in middle of verse 6;

Now, Joseph was well-built and handsome and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!”


Joseph wasn’t a wimp.  He had the muscular body, the six-pack abs, the good looks, etc.  He had the brains and the brawn.  So, here’s Joseph’s situation: trusted by Potiphar, tempted by Potiphar’s wife. What’s he going to do?


I don’t know what went through Joseph’s mind at that point. I know what would have gone through mine - thoughts that challenge my integrity. In fact, I think there are at least four such thoughts that come to us in situations where compromise is an option.

Here are some challenges to integrity;


1. The first one is: “No one will know.”

“I can cheat on the test and not get caught. I can pocket the money and no one will miss it.”  Now as Joseph was the manager of the estate it would have been easy for him to take advantage of the situation. He could arrange the work schedules of the other slaves and servants.

He could produce an environment where no one would know that he was hitting on the boss’s wife. He could maintain that outward image of “honorable, hard-working, trustworthy Joseph” while living a secret life of adultery.


“No one will know.” That’s the first challenge to integrity.


2. The second is the thought “Just this once.”

“I’m not going to make a lifestyle of this. I’m just going to try it once out of curiosity. I’m not going to become a pornography addict. I’m just going to watch one movie that my wife doesn’t know about. I’m just checking out this one web site.  I’m not going to have an affair with the boss’s wife. It’s one roll in the hay while he’s away on business.”

It would have been easy for Joseph to rationalize - “just this once.”


3. Here’s another thought that challenges integrity: “People who play by the rules finish last.”

You might hear people say; “The deck is stacked against you. Sometimes you have to take shortcuts. Sometimes you have to spread a little dirt someone else’s deep dark secrets to slow them down. Integrity is counter-productive. It’s like taking the long winding road, when there’s a more direct route.”


The third challenge is—Nice guys and gals finish last.


4. Finally and perhaps the most tempting challenge to integrity: “I’m only taking what I deserve.”

“Sure, it’s wrong to steal from my employer. But isn’t it just as wrong for them to pay me less than I’m worth? In a way, they’re stealing from me. I’m just taking what they owe me.” “It’s only an ink pen besides they have them by the ton.” Who could blame Joseph for thinking, “You know I deserve this. I used to be part of a family, but my brothers betrayed me. God told me I’d be a success, but look at me - I’m a slave. Sleeping with my master’s wife - boy, wouldn’t that be rich?”


No one will know. Just this once. Nice guys finish last. I deserve it.”


But the Bible says that, in spite of these challenges to his integrity Joseph stood strong. Verse 8; “But he refused.  ‘With me in charge’, he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.  No one is greater in this house than I am.  My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.  How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’  And with those words, Joseph was well on the way to passing the test of integrity, partly because he understood some things that are crystal clear to people of integrity.


Here are a few thing that People of Integrity Know (that others don’t).


1. God sees, even if no one else does.

A burglar broke into a house late one night and, as he began to look around, he heard a strange voice say, “Jesus is watching you.” He froze in his tracks and said, “Who said that?” No reply. “Must be my conscience,” he thought to himself sarcastically. He took a step and he heard it again, “Jesus is watching you.” “Who said that?” he asked again. “Joshua,” came the reply. The burglar turned his flashlight toward the voice and saw ... a parrot sitting in its cage! Greatly relieved, he laughed and said, “Who would name a parrot Joshua?” The parrot said, “Same person who named our pit bull Jesus.” 

It’s tempting to tell yourself that no one will know. But Someone always does.

Psalm 69:5 says: “You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you.

People of integrity know that God always sees, even if no one else does.


2. Integrity is destroyed one decision at a time.

“Just this once” almost always leads to “just this once more.” Falsifying a tax return just once makes it harder to say “no” the next time. Cheating on a test just once makes it that much easier to cheat again. Little by little, integrity is destroyed. 

That’s why the Bible says in Proverbs 4:25-27;

 “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.  Make level paths before for your feet and take only ways that are firm.  Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

In other words, don’t tolerate any deviation where your integrity is concerned. One small step off of the path can lead to another and another and eventually to destruction.


3. Sometimes integrity demands a high price.

Telling your friends “sorry, I’m not going to be involved in that kind of activity,” might cost you an invitation to the next party. It might even cost you their friendship. That’s the price of integrity. Admitting the truth about an error you made at work instead of covering it up or blaming it on someone else might tarnish your reputation. It could even cost you dollars at the next performance review. Sometimes that’s the price of integrity.  Integrity is not cheap. Look at what it cost Joseph. According to the Bible, even though Joseph refused her initial invitation, Potiphar’s wife kept tempting him day after day. And day after day he kept saying “no.”

Follow along as we pick up the story in verse 11; “One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside.  She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’  But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the home.”

Joseph didn’t hang around when temptation stared him in the face.  He took off running.  He didn’t run to it, he ran away from it. And this got Potiphar’s wife just a tad upset because apparently, the thought came to her. “If he won’t play my game, he won’t play any game at all… looks to me like I hold in my hands evidence of an attempted rape.” “When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants, ‘Look,’ she said to them, ‘this Hebrew has been brought in to us to make sport of us!  He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed.  When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”


Later when her husband, Potiphar, returned, she showed him the jacket and told him the story. He became angry and had Joseph thrown into prison.  No questions asked.

Sometimes, integrity demands a high price. For Joseph, the cost was his privilege and position as chief steward in the house of the number two man in Egypt, not to mention getting a permanent vacation in the slammer.


So what’s the payoff of integrity?  It’s enough to make you wonder if it’s really worth it! I’m sure that thought crossed Joseph’s mind as he sat in prison. “Maybe I should have just gone along with her.”  And that gets to the heart of the matter. What is the payoff of integrity? And, given the potential price, it had better be good.  I’m convinced that there are three outstanding benefits that far outweigh any cost associated with integrity. This is what I believe.


1. The first benefit is the peace and joy that comes from a clear conscience.

If you have a clear conscience you sleep better at night. You’re not worried about skeletons in the closet that might be discovered. You don’t have to constantly wonder “have I covered my tracks well enough?” You don’t stress over trying to remember “which lie did I tell this person this time?”

Sure, you may be lower on the popularity scale, you may be a few dollars poorer, you may even be taken advantage of, but you can look yourself in the mirror and say, “I can be trusted when no one is looking.” And that brings great joy.


2. The second benefit is an increase in spiritual vitality - a closeness to God and an increasing awareness of His presence.



Listen to this incredible passage of scripture found in Psalm 15:1-5:  Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? (Pause) He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent”.   In other words, a person of integrity is a person who can be trusted when no one is looking.


3. Finally, integrity opens the door to God’s blessing.  It leads to the path of success.

Now, I know that some of you are thinking “it doesn’t appear to have worked that way for Joseph!” But it did. Even in prison, he experienced upward mobility much as he had in Potiphar’s household.  The ending of chapter 39 verses 22 – 23 states; “The warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”


Eventually God blesses Joseph by raising him up to the number two position in all of Egypt.  Second only in power to Pharaoh himself.  Bet that got Photiphar and his wife’s attention.


God says again and again throughout the Bible that He will bless men and women of integrity. That doesn’t mean that your life becomes a cakewalk. In fact, you might still be in the jailhouse or the doghouse, figuratively speaking, but God “gives you success” in spite of the situation, as He did Joseph.


So, there you have it - the peace and joy that comes from a clear conscience; vitality in your relationship with God; God’s hand of blessing on your life. Those are just part of the reward for integrity.  Now, I know some of you are thinking, “I can live without those things. It doesn’t seem to me that the reward is worth the price.” Have it your way. But I can tell you that one day it will be worth it. I say that because there are people sitting here this morning who used to think that way. But now they’re thinking, “I’d give anything to have a clear conscience. I’d give anything to have no secrets from my husband or wife, to end the lies to my parents, for no more cover-ups at work. I’d give anything to have a relationship with God that’s vibrant and alive; to sense His presence and closeness. I’d give anything to be the kind of person that God blesses. I’d give anything to be a person of integrity.”


If that’s where you are today, let me define exactly what it takes to become that kind of person.


Increasing Your Personal Integrity


1. Take a ruthless inventory of your life

Ask yourself, “Can I be trusted when no one else is looking?”


2. Confess to God (and others if necessary)

Ask Him for his strength; because there is no way you can do it on your own power.


3. And then, pay attention to the little things.

You got to sweat the small stuff when it comes to integrity. Luke 16:10 says;

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”


4. Finally, find someone to whom you can be accountable.

Give someone permission to ask you the hard questions about what’s behind the image you project.


There are challenges to our integrity that we face daily.  If we trust totally in God, like Joseph did, then He will help us to not only meet those challenges but He will bless us in ways that we cannot imagine.  Take an inventory of your life, confess your shortcomings, pay attention to the little things and find someone to whom you can be accountable.


Pray with me;

Father thank You for this day that You have given to us to come and worship You together with family and friends.  We come before You asking for strength and wisdom in our daily lives.  Help us not compromise our integrity in our public and private lives.  Help us to be trustworthy even when no one is looking.  In the name of your Son Jesus we pray.  Amen.