If he’s a good speaker, does it really matter if he’s liar?
If he can lead a movement, does it matter if he’s not trustworthy?
If his sermons are memorable, does it matter if he’s morally squishy?
If he can hit his numbers, make the sale, win the election, enthrall an audience, quote a Scripture, balance the budget, and look good doing it…
…does it really matter if he lacks integrity?
Do you ever get tired of losing?
We used to play a lot of monopoly growing up.
With four siblings and a dad who didn’t believe in patronizing children with false victories, I rarely won. It was incredibly frustrating! I would usually start out well by purchasing Reading Railroad or Oriental Avenue, but quickly land in jail kickstarting a downward spiral to eventual bankruptcy and familial shame. I hated to lose! Even more, I hated to watch my enemies win.
I must’ve been on an extended losing streak when I first discovered a gap in the game. I found a small slit in the system.
I could be the banker.
Needless to say, I stopped losing monopoly.
Nobody really noticed when I’d slip myself and extra $100 ever few rounds. Instead of setting out all my money in neat little stacks, a scattered pile of cash made it difficult for others to count. I even found that I could shortchange my siblings when performing bank business. This adjustment in play gave me the competitive advantage I needed to finally win.
And I did. I won nearly every game.
I was now a winner.
Have you noticed the trend?
Politicians we’d have never previously considered, become viable options.
Because we must win!
Preachers we’d have never previously condoned, re-enter the pulpit.
Because we must win!
Actions we’d have never previously taken are now acceptable and frequent.
Because we must win!
I still hate to lose.
However, when I look back on my underhanded Hasbro hijinks I’m haunted by this question.
Was I really winning?
Okay – Here’s the big thought…
Why does integrity matter so much?
Because Pragmatism is Poison.
A little arsenic in your coffee is too much arsenic.
- It Corrupts the Soul
The lie is simple. You’ll lose if you don’t compromise. And so, we cover-up for our friends and call it loyalty. We excuse repugnant behavior in our leaders and pounce when we see it in the lives of the opposition. We immediately win the moment and eventually lose our soul.
Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel, “what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” So, if that means losing the game of monopoly, the next campaign, the denomination, the business, or even a friend – all of these are preferable than losing your own soul.
- It is Never Enough
Here’s the thing about pragmatism. It’s insatiable. Like the leech of Proverbs 30:15-16, it’ll suck you dry. Once you start on the path of “the end justifies the means” there’s no way of knowing where you’ll truly end up.
- It is Deceptively Inconspicuous
Pragmatism is easy to see in others, yet nearly impossible to detect in oneself.
In my early pastoral days, I was accused of using more lively music in our church to attract a younger audience by those I believed were using more somber music to retain an elderly crowd. We each saw the other as compromising integrity to garner a higher attendance. In retrospect, neither assumption was true. Each pastor simply used the style of music they believed would most honor God.
Humans love to prescribe motives, assume timelines, and create visions of reality that simply are untrue. Perhaps this is a defense mechanism to protect our fragile self-image. Or maybe, we are just a fallen race of sinners needing to judge ourselves before leveling judgment on others.
So then, we must do the right thing. Every time, it is right to do right. Why does integrity matter so much? Because pragmatism is poison, and…
Because the next generation is watching.
The compromise of integrity has a compounding negative effect. Do we think our children won’t notice when we excuse bad behavior in our own lives, and the lives of those we consider friends? I believe pragmatism is one of the primary killers of Preacher’s Kids and has led to the multi-generational decline of Christianity.
- Call Out Bad Behavior
Teenagers have an innate sense of hypocrisy. They can smell it a mile away. They know when you act one way at home and another way behind the pulpit. They are the first to notice when your words don’t match your actions. Interview 100 deconstructing “former Christians” and ask them if they’d ever witnessed inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and lack of integrity in the Christian home or the pastoral office.
Typically, we are willing to call out the bad behavior of those in other tribes, denominations, and political parties. We rage about the failures of those we consider opponents while covering for our friends and associates. And our children are not stupid. Our disciples are not blind. They are taking note and will either abandon the Christian faith entirely, or worse, expand your legacy through further corruption.
- Draw the Line of Demarcation
We must understand the difference between a friend and a congregant. This is essential and yet something many ministry leaders struggle to do. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you can’t be friendly to your congregants. I’m not saying you can’t minister to your friends. In fact, sometimes a person who starts out as congregant can become a truly close friend. But the opposite is also true, a close friend may eventually become someone to whom you only minister. (For more clarification, see my chapter on the Circles of Friendship in my book).
Therefore, setting proper relational boundaries will not only provide you personally with emotional and spiritual stability, bringing clarity to the relationships in your life, it will also help your children distinguish between right and wrong.
- We are friends with those who continually pursue Christ.
- We minister to those have fallen away from Christ.
- We are friends with those who encourage us in our ministry.
- We minister to those continually rely upon our ministry.
- We spend the evening with friends in a relaxed and comfortable social setting.
- We spend the evening with congregants who need our spiritual leadership.
Certainly, minster to every soul who needs a loving pastor and faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. But never ignore sin or downplay righteousness to retain a friendship that God is transforming into a ministry.
Why does integrity matter so much? Because pragmatism is poison, the next generation is watching, and…
Because God Honors Integrity.
Hard work, fresh ideas, and business acumen will only get a pastor so far. It’s not enough for a church to have a great speaker in the pulpit, world class musicians on the stage, and an effective assimilation process behind the scenes. A nation needs more than natural resources, healthy government, and an engaged citizenry.
God’s blessing is essential.
And nothing eliminates the blessing of God more quickly than a lack of integrity.
Proverbs 10:9 He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known.
Proverbs 20:7 The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.
Proverbs 19:1 Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips and is a fool.
- What happened to Abraham when he lied about his wife?
- What happened to Laban when he attempted to cheat Jacob?
- What happened to Saul when he ignored the Lord’s instruction?
- What happened to David when he took Bathsheba?
- What happened to Ananias & Sapphira when they lied to the Holy Spirit?
Pastor, don’t you see?
You cannot fleece the flock and expect God’s blessing.
You cannot lie to the sheep and think God will honor you.
You cannot coverup sin and escape the judgment of God.
Christian, can’t you hear?
You cannot forsake the church and expect God’s blessing.
You cannot withhold generosity and think God will honor you.
You cannot demand morality while living immorally.
Nation, can’t you understand?
You cannot forsake the God and expect joy.
You cannot celebrate sin and assume a strong future.
You cannot ignore integrity and believe your society will continue.
So then, integrity is not simply an important quality.
It appears to be the essential ingredient to a healthy life, godly church, and blessed nation.
We will never truly win until we decide that losing the race, losing the institution, losing the business, or losing the church isn’t nearly as important as losing our integrity.
What do you think?
What have I missed?
I would love to dialogue with you about this in the comment section below.