“A Vote For Integrity”
Tracy City, Tennessee is a rural East Tennessee community with a population of just over 1,400. In 2010, the town made national news because of a strange turn of events in their mayoral election. Carl Geary Sr. was running against incumbent Barbara Brock. However, a month before the April election, Geary died of a sudden heart attack as he campaigned wearing his notable overalls. Mr. Geary was already a member of the city council, and was known for his down-to-earth humor and common sense, and for always telling the truth in a straightforward way. Despite his sudden death, that did not stop voters from electing Geary as mayor. Geary would poll over three times as many voters as his rival, and defeated the incumbent 268 votes to 85. Mrs. Brock, a member of the Garden Club, asked a probing question of a reporter when she heard the results of the election: "Tell me something -- why would people vote for a dead man?" Chris Rogers, owner of the town’s Lunch Box Restaurant, would provide insight as to why so many people still voted for him. After describing Geary’s impeccable integrity, he said, "I knew he was deceased. I know that sounds stupid, but...if he were to run again next week I'd vote for him again." It was a vote for what the man stood for.
In a world that is being built around money, position, and titles, we are finding it more and more difficult to find models of honor, honesty, and propriety. That is, those that live by the loftiest standards of behavior that is always wise, right, and best. Far too many have climbed the ladder of success by adopting an “at any cost” mentality and left us unimpressed, disappointed, and suspicious. The rungs of their ladder now reveal the bloody remnants of broken promises, broken trust, broken hearts, and broken lives. In a rising tide of deceit and corruption, our world is desperate for those that exemplify high character. Solomon had such a thought in mind when he wrote in Proverbs 20:7, “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” When honor is lost, there is little left to sustain succeeding generations. The world needs more people whose word is their bond and whose handshake is a sealed contract; whose lives are not negotiable; who refuse to steal from their character to take a short cut to the top; who will hold to what is right regardless of the consequences; who will not surrender to popular opinion because it makes them look cool. It has been said, "The hinge of the future is on the door of the present. Keep men of honor and integrity in places of trust and you will not fear the future.” A person’s character is made up of the sum of his choices. Therefore, any staying power to achieve success tomorrow is dependent upon doing what is right today. With terms and definitions changing daily, what does it mean to possess genuine integrity?
Integrity is a life that is fixed in principle. In 1 Kings 9:4, God promised to establish forever the throne of Solomon “if thou wilt walk before Me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart...” It was a call for the steadfast pursuit of honesty and authenticity at all times. God knew that without a right heart it would be extremely difficult to do what is right. We are not given integrity at birth, but rather it is established into our heart one decision at a time. Every time we distinguish right from wrong and act accordingly, values are built inside of us. So, integrity is not so much something we pause to pray about, but rather it is the matching of our convictions with our conduct. However, the self-discipline of choosing the high road of proper behavior is dependent upon never losing the conscious awareness of the ever-present eyes of God upon our lives. The moment we wink at wrong and abandon what is right in favor of self-gratification, our values become distorted and we lose all God-consciousness. English writer G.K. Chesterton said, "Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable." Within the ranks of God’s wisdom, a wrong will never be labeled as right no matter how many others are doing it. Being fair, kind, and honest are not only the right things to do, but they are also the virtues of a man who already committed the deed at heart long before the outward action occurred.
Integrity is a life that is firm under pressure. When Job had reached the pinnacle of trial and suffering, God bragged on him to Satan in Job 2:3, “...still he holdeth fast his integrity.” Each of us would have been very understanding and forgiving if Job had acted out of character amidst his circumstances. But, as the temptation to do so arose, he refused to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect nor bring dishonor to God. It was the courage combined with integrity that led to his triumph of peace. Integrity is a quality that is not conditioned to shine only when the circumstances are favorable. In fact, like a diamond set against black velvet, its brilliance is enhanced the darker the challenge it faces. When the pressure to surrender to self-interest is matched by integrity there is a self-restraint that awards our conscience with the right of refusal. Naboth “refused to give” away his father’s honor of inheritance when Ahab offered money for his vineyard. Queen Vashti “refused to come at the king’s commandment” to defile her purity for his sick pleasure. Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” that he might receive greater honor in Christ. Albert Einstein said, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." A man will gain infinitely more with integrity than he ever will in its absence. But, his simplest reward may be that of getting a better nights rest knowing that he did right.
Integrity is a life that is free of pretense. In Proverbs 11:3, Solomon wrote, “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” The phrase “perverseness of transgressors” is speaking of those with a life of duplicity and pretense. It is quite rare to find those with not a speck of deception, guile, conceit, or hidden agenda in them. But, while none among us have yet to reach perfection, there is a distinct difference between being flawed and being a fraud. Once a man has surrendered his integrity, he at once becomes a con man and a phony. Any supposed integrity that is left becomes a burden as the days are spent striving and conniving to maintain an image. The trust, respect, and hopes are stolen away from others, but it is himself from whom he steals the most. In such condition, talent may take a man to a place where his character cannot sustain him. A great indicator of how far a man has moved from the plumb line of integrity is to measure his response when he is wrong. Either he will shift the blame like Adam, draw a sword like Herod, or come clean like David. Charles Colton wrote, "Nothing so completely baffles one who is full of trick and duplicity himself, than straightforward and simple integrity in another." The inability to live genuine through and through raises the perpetual fear of being found out. It is far more important for others to know who you are than what you do.
In Job 27:5, Job said, “...till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.” It goes without saying that not everyone will finish strong or well. But, for those that do, there is a common thread that links each of them to one another and it is integrity. If we have lived with integrity, there is little that needs to be said because we have already given our own eulogy by how we lived our life. Charles Spurgeon said, “A good character is the best tombstone...Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” Dead men tell no tales, but they can still collect a vote of approval.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2016 Alan Stewart