The integrity of the upright will guide them. – Proverbs 11:3 (NKJV)
My father inspected buildings being constructed for the state, making sure the contractors followed the blueprints. Having worked construction himself when he was younger, he knew too well how corners could be cut and a building’s integrity undermined. He refused many a contractor’s overtures, often gifts of liquor stashed in the back seat of his car. His colleagues soon recognized he could not be bought. He would not allow his personal integrity to be undermined.
The word integrity comes from two Latin words that together mean “untouched, whole, entire.” These two Latin roots also give us integrate, which means “to weave or blend separate entities into a working whole or unit.”
Personal integrity cannot be put on and off like a garment. Rather it is woven into the moral fabric of our lives over time. We weave it in each time we keep a promise or tell the truth no matter what it costs us, whether it’s claiming all our income on our tax return, returning extra change we received by mistake, or paying the difference when we’re undercharged. We weave it in each time we admit our mistakes and take responsibility for our words and actions.
My father was a man of integrity – or, as I like to phrase it, a “Psalm 1” man.
What characterizes a Psalm 1 man, a man of integrity?
Two things: what he doesn’t do and what he does.
He doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand around with sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers (v. 1). Notice the verbs show a progression: walking, standing, sitting.
Walking in Scripture implies a way of life. The Psalm 1 man walks, all right, but he takes the narrow road, often alone (Matthew 7:13-14). He walks by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and he walks in the light (John 8:12). As a result, the man of integrity walks securely (Proverbs 10:9).
The Psalm 1 man doesn’t “stand in the way of sinners.” He doesn’t hang out with those for whom wickedness is a way of life. He knows that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). The man of integrity keeps moving, knowing if he walks with the wise he’ll become wise, and if he associates with fools, he’ll get in trouble (Proverbs 13:20 NLT).
And the Psalm 1 man doesn’t “sit in the seat of mockers.” Sitting implies settling in and getting comfortable with those who mock God, ridicule Him, and defiantly reject Him. The man of integrity doesn’t join in with those who scorn God and His way. Indeed, he stands up for that which is good and true, right and just, noble and holy.
The Psalm 1 man knows God’s Word so well it’s a part of him, nourishing him and guiding him, causing him to thrive (verses 2-3).
All it takes is one man of integrity to influence the world around him. Be that Psalm 1 man.
May our nation and world be filled with Psalm 1 men. Amen.