Staking My Life on My Word
A pastor bought a bus ticket for his intended destination. The cashier at the counter gave him back an exorbitant amount of change. The pastor went and sat down in his seat, looked at the change, and realised what had happened. For a moment his thought was, "Praise the Lord. God has taken care of my trip." But after a while, another thought stole through his mind, "Can my gain be another man's loss?"
He went back to the cashier and said, "You gave me too much money. Here's the balance." The cashier replied, "I knew I gave you too much money. I was in church last Sunday, and I heard you preaching on honesty. I just wanted to see if you're for real."
Thankfully, this pastor passed the test - he's 'for real'. But supposing, by a far stretch of imagination, that the change he got from the cashier was a lot, lot more - enough to cover all his ministry expenses and set him up comfortably for the rest of his life (we did say "by a far stretch of imagination"). Will he still be able to resist the temptation?
What is the amount that will break his resolve to remain true to his principles?
There's a saying - "Every man has his price."
Is this true? Do we have moral standards that are flexible, depending on the situation? Do our principles dictate our actions or do circumstances dictate our principles? Are we willing to set aside our fleshly desires for the sake of those standards we claim to believe in, just like the pastor in the story above did?
The bottomline - Do we have integrity?
What a load of questions! But there's one more: What is this 'integrity' that we hear so often?
According to the on-line Encarta Dictionary, integrity is the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards.
Simply put, integrity is doing what you say. It is keeping your word, fulfilling your promise.
Perhaps, integrity is best des-cribed by Jesus, "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No' ". (Matt. 5:38) In other words, people will believe whatever you say because you have proven yourself to be honest and true to your words in the past.
Someone added that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. Contrast this with the world's view that you are only guilty when you are caught. So, as long as no one knows and no one sees, you can carry on with your merry dirt in the dark.
Unfortunately, light has a way of seeking out the darkest corners.
Take for example our very own PKFZ scandal. For a long time, the robbing and fleecing went on in the dark, unseen by the public until the amount rocketed to an astronomical RM12 billion. That's our hard-earned money, paid to the Government in the form of taxes to be used for the welfare of the nation. Instead, the money has surreptitiously traveled to the bank accounts of greedy individuals.
But as we've said, light has a way of seeking out the darkest corners.
We commend the Government for wanting to get down to the root of this monstrous scandal as part of its declared battle to weed out corruption.
But here comes the RM12 billion question - will the Government uphold its pledge to fight corruption by nailing the people involved in the scandal? Will the Government keep its word?
Integrity. Men who hold to uncompromising standards are sorely lacking today. Even many Christians who boast of high moral standards and extol their righteous character have abandoned their conviction when compromise is more beneficial and expedient.
Christians are supposed to be the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." (Matt.5:13)
One great biblical example of integrity in the Old Testament is Ezra, a scribe and priest who set out to lead a group of people back from Persia to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The trip home was treacherous through hundreds of miles of foreign towns and villages. Before Ezra set out from Persia, he made the following preparation.
"There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.
I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, 'The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.' " Ezra 8:21-22
Ezra's integrity was important to him. He had told the king that God would protect them, so he couldn't ask for soldiers. He was not going to say one thing and then do another (unlike our many politicians who spout unity on one breath and scream racial hatred at the very next).
Ezra was willing to stake his life and the lives of his people on his declaration that "the gracious hand of God is on everyone who looks to him."
And who can forget Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who, when told to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar's golden statue on pain of death, defiantly said, "…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18
The three young men did what they said. They did not bow to the statue and were thrown into the furnace that was heated up seven times hotter than usual. God could deliver them, but would he?
They did not know, but they were willing to die to keep their word. Keeping their word was more important than keeping their lives. That's integrity.
You can live without fame, you can live without wealth, you can live without health, you can live without everything, but you cannot live without integrity. Without integrity, you will rot from the inside out. Without integrity, we will be soul-less creatures wandering the face of this earth.
In this world of shifting goal posts and flip-flopping standards, we need to be a people of integrity so that when we proclaim that Jesus is the true and living God and the Messiah, no one will doubt us.
For your prayers
The PKFZ investigation requires much prayer. Pray for the people involved in the investigation. Pray God gives them deep insight and wisdom into the debacle; and strength and courage to expose the truth.
May this case spark off a new era of honest and righteous dealings within the Government and business quarters, where integrity reigns in the hearts of people responsible for public funds.