Though often used to describe men, integrity is a word that is about as understood as it is a quality that is possessed. Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as: “The state or quality of being entire or complete; wholeness; entireness; unbroken state” (Webster’s Dictionary, 1913). In this sense, integrity may refer to a structure or a foundation. If a foundation has lost its integrity, the building resting on that foundation will not stand because it’s lack of wholeness has deprived it of full strength. When referring to men, integrity often refers to one’s character and reputation. In this sense, the meaning is similar to that of a building or a structure. A man who has no integrity is a man who is lacking; he is incomplete; he has no soundness; he has a weakened foundation. His character is uncertain, and there is no wholeness in him.
Solomon wrote, “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (Prov. 28:6 – NKJV). Better, Solomon says, is that man whose character is sound and whole (the man who walks in moral uprightness) than one who is perverse, even though the perverse man is a man of wealth and prosperity. Few men display integrity better than Job. After enduring severe loss, Job maintained his integrity (Job 2:3). He continued to be a man of moral uprightness, complete in God. Considering that Job maintained his integrity, we conclude that a picture of Job’s life and character best demonstrates a man of integrity. Observe that Job lived a life free from immorality and deceit (Job 31:1-11): he was considerate and benevolent to the needs of those of a lower station than himself (Job 31:13- 23), he did not trust in wealth and possessions (Job 31:24-25), he did not practice idolatry but worshiped only the God of heaven (Job 31:26- 27), he hoped for the good of others and not evil—even if they hated him (Job 31:29-30), he showed hospitality to strangers (Job 31:31-33), he never engaged in theft or oppressing others (Job 31:38-40), and above all Job was willing to confess his wrong rather than hide it in hopes of maintaining a good name (Job 31:33). Job was a man of integrity. He did what was right even when no one was looking. We often refer to Job as a man who had everything and then lost everything, but that is not exactly true. Job never lost his integrity!
Solomon posited integrity above riches. Job maintained his integrity even at the loss of great possessions. Indeed it is better to have integrity than possessions, power, or position. A man of integrity is a man who is trusted, respected, and whose name alone stands for all that he is. Such is the case with Job. When we hear the name Job, we think of a man who lost everything. Moreover, we picture the man inspiration identifies as “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1 NKJV); a man of whom God said, “there is none like him in the earth” (Job 1:8). How much better to enjoy the praise of God than the praise of man! How much better to have integrity!
It is better to have integrity than riches because the man of integrity is, in truth, the richer man. The man of integrity has a name/reputation of great value. On two occasions, Solomon spoke of the value of a good name: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1); “A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth” (Eccl. 7:1). The importance of a name is seen in the reputation of such names as Jezebel, Adolf Hitler, Nero, and Benedict Arnold—what mother would name their child after such historical figures? Compare the historical reputation of those names to names like Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson; Douglas, Parks, and King.
One of the most significant figures of ancient Rome is Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus. According to Roman legend, Cincinnatus was appointed dictator by the Roman Senate to lead his people in a war against invading tribes. Victorious, Cincinnatus disbanded his army and returned to his farm rather than make himself dictator, and to this day stands as a legendary figure of Roman virtue. So impressed by the history of Cincinnatus was George Washington that he patterned his return to Mount Vernon after the legend of this great Roman. Not surprisingly, one of the most well-known statues of George Washington is of him as Cincinnatus by JeanAntoine Houdon.
“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (Prov. 28:6). The riches of walking in integrity are far above the wealth one may possess on this earth. A man’s name stands not only for all that he is but for all that he is for all time. The praise bestowed upon a man of integrity is far greater than those given to the man of means. When a man’s wealth passes, so does the praise, but the man of integrity never loses his worthiness of honor. The value of a good name that comes from walking in our integrity is especially realized in the words of Jesus, “rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Better to have integrity because the man of integrity has a name of great value, both among God and man.