Life presents us with all sorts of ways to cut corners—you see a mistake in your favor on a bank statement, you get home from the store and discover an item wasn’t paid for, a friend asks if you want in on a very profitable deal that isn’t exactly above board, your customer offers to pay you in cash, you see an easy way to avoid paying for the goods or services you want, and on and on.
Sometimes the temptation is to avoid the hassle of correcting an error in our favor, and sometimes the amount of money we will gain if we just do (or don’t do) this or that small thing seems like a gain that’s worth “bending the rules” a bit.
Whenever I’m tempted by something like this, I ask myself the question, “If you lost your integrity, how much would you pay to get it back?” My answer is always that if I lost my good name, I would pay any amount to get it back. And if I would pay an exorbitant amount, I would certainly pay a measly $5 or make a trip back to a store and pay the amount of that unpaid-for item. To regain my integrity, I would pay at least the amount I would wrongly gain were I to give in to that temptation. And if I would pay that money to get my integrity back, why not pay that same amount of money now to keep it in the first place?
Guard your integrity! Never give it up for the sake of convenience or any amount of material gain. Proverbs has wise words for us on this matter:
A good name is to be desired more than great wealth,
Favor is better than silver or gold. (Prov. 22:1)
And even if no one would ever know about your sin, why trouble your conscience? Proverbs describes the peace of a clear conscience:
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
So they will be life to your soul
And adornment to your neck.
Then you will walk in your way securely
And your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Prov. 3:21b–24)
And even beyond the motivation of the peacefulness of a clear conscience, there is beauty. Wisdom—the ability to apply the knowledge of what’s right to your life—is beautiful. Who can resist this description?
How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
For her profit is better than the profit of silver
And her gain better than fine gold.
She is more precious than jewels;
And nothing you desire compares with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who hold her fast. (Prov. 3:13–18)
Who can read Proverbs 3 without longing for the beauty that’s described there? We have so much more to gain by following God and acting in ways that “proclaim the excellencies” of His character to the world than we do by grasping at any ill-gotten material gain, large or small. Nothing is worth giving up your integrity.