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13. Integrity

Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.

– by Mama Brenda Salter

‘Integrity’ is one of those words that we come across and choose not to think about too much. We may equate it to the words ‘good living’. We may think that leaders need it, that visionaries need it - but what is ‘it’?

The title of this book is “Leadership, Integrity and Nation-building”. I believe that integrity must underlie and support the other two nouns. Integrity must be the rock on which leaders base their leadership. Integrity must be the basis for building any nation. Integrity must be the foundation for each of our lives.

What is integrity?

My Chambers dictionary defines it as:

1. “The strict adherence to moral values and principles: uprightness”

2. “The quality or state of being whole and unimpaired”

3. Coming “from the Latin Integritas meaning wholeness”.[1]

We sometimes hear the word integrity used in a scientific or engineering context. “The integrity of the container has been compromised”, meaning the wholeness of the container is damaged - it is no longer fit for the designed use. It is possibly allowing impurities in, or letting the contents out. The result of that lack of integrity could just be a small nuisance, but it could also be a huge disaster.

The parallel in our lives and work is that, if we allow our strict adherence to our moral values to be compromised it could be a difficulty for us, or it could develop into a major problem for many, many others.

The word integrity is used in the Bible.[2] So what does that add to our thinking?


In 1 Kings 9:4-6 God said to Solomon, “As for you, if you walk before me with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel. … But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you … I will cut off Israel from the land”. Solomon was the king over Israel when it had the largest territory it has ever controlled before or since. He was known as wise. Yet God still said that He (God) demanded integrity in Solomon’s life.


In Nehemiah 7:2 Nehemiah said, “I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do”. Nehemiah had been sent back from exile in Persia to superintend the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. When this was done and the city secured, he appointed men to positions of leadership to govern the city. He did not choose Hanani because he was a relative – although that may have helped Nehemiah to know Hanani’s life and work. He chose him because it could be seen that Hanani followed God in every area of his whole life.


The book of Job is often ignored, but it shouldn’t be because it teaches us some big lessons. It teaches us that our God is the ultimate, the creator, the everlasting, the all-wise, that there are things going on in the heavenly realms that we know nothing about, that some of our philosophers speak at great length about without understanding, that Satan’s power is strictly limited by God.

Job was very rich. His children and their families died in a catastrophe. In Job 2:3 God spoke of Job to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason”.

Job becomes very ill. His wife disagrees with his thinking and asks in 2:9, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”. Calamity on calamity. But the Bible says, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said”, Job 2:10.

His ‘friends’ visit and say Job must be wrong in his thinking and living. They speak at great length: see 4:1-5:27; 8:1-22; 11:1-20; 15:1-35; 18:1-21; 20:1-29; 22:1-30; 25:1-6; 32:1-37:24. Job also says many things, but in 27:3-6 he says “… as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not say anything wicked, my tongue will not utter lies. I will never admit you (the ‘friends’) are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my innocence, and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live”.

Can you say that? Can I?

God, in Isaiah

In Isaiah we hear God speaking through the prophecies He gave to the prophet. In 56:1 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed’”. But in 59:1-4 the Lord says, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity”.

What does Almighty God say now of His world as He looks at you and me, knowing all about our way of living? It does matter, you know. God is, and will be, our judge.

Our Lord Jesus

Moving into the New Testament, the same incident is recorded in both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, when the Pharisees came to ask Jesus a trick question. The Pharisees were opposed to Jesus but knew that many ordinary people had great respect for Him. They introduced their question in a way the listening crowd liked. Out of the mouths of evil-intentioned men came truth that the ordinary people recognised as truth! Matthew 22:16 reads, ““Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are”.

The question was designed to make Jesus the enemy of either the Jewish authorities or the Roman authorities. Jesus’ answer, however, distinguished clearly between God and the divine claims of Caesar, yet did not produce the antagonism intended by the Pharisees. Check the answer out for yourself from Matthew 22:21 and Mark 12:17. Wisdom and integrity from our Saviour.

You and me?

What are the moral values and principles that govern your life? How are you defining integrity in your day to day living? Good sounding words are a start, but we need to put flesh on those bones. What do those words mean to us in our everyday situations?

In what follows I tried writing these principles working out for me:

I live with integrity when:

  • I remember that every individual in this world is a unique creation of God, who has worth because God has brought him/her into existence. That influences me in my day to day contacts with people and in corporate world issues.

  • I respect and show care for the older members of my family. I respect and deeply love my husband. I respect, love and support my daughter and her husband, my grandchildren, my son and daughter-in-love, my foster daughter and her husband.

  • I care for my friends and my acquaintances. I show respect for all people I work with, those above me and those below me. I must be an unashamed workman. This means I am, or I have done, nothing that must be covered up or hidden away.

  • I pray to God when I can for all these folks.

  • My God is perfect, doing what is right, and He wants me to copy Him. I must always be honest, transparent, open to questions and inspection about all my actions and attitudes.

This is obviously very personalised, and you may think, too feminine. If so I challenge you to write your own principles for living with integrity where you are, with whom you are, and in situations you must deal with.

Two short thoughts to finish with

1. Plato and Aristotle, thinking and writing in the first century B.C., wrote about the need for doctors and leaders not to be self-seeking. They saw the danger of having a doctor who was practising only for the money, and of having a leader who could personally gain from his position.

There have been many leaders through history, in east and west, north and south, who have been tempted by the powers and opportunities they have been given, to use them for personal gain rather than investing in their peoples and their countries. It is a big temptation. Giving in, even just a little, is life without integrity.

2. The prophet Micah wrote in Micah 6:8, “He (God) has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”.

  • To act justly is to know what is just, fair, morally right, and to do it. Always.

  • To love mercy. We enjoy the fact that God’s mercy to us is His free, unmerited favour towards us. If we, in turn, truly love mercy we will be practising it as strongly as God does, treating everybody we are responsible for in a kind and generous way. Or at least sincerely trying to!!

  • To walk humbly with your God is to keep in step and at pace with God while being totally conscious that HE is GOD. You are not God. You are not better or more important before God than anybody else. You are merely God’s accountable servant.

This I believe is life with integrity. May God grant it to us all.

Discussion guide

Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted

  1. “Integrity must be the rock on which leaders base their leadership … the basis for building any nation … the foundation for each of our lives”. Why? What is likely to happen without integrity in each of these three situations?

  2. What were the two alternatives God set out for Solomon? 1 Kings 9:1-9. Why did they depend on his “integrity of heart”? How important was this “integrity” to God?

  3. The Pharisees describe our Lord Jesus as “a man of integrity”, Matthew 22:16. From the text and its surrounding verses, describe what they meant. (I am aware they were trying to trip Him up by their question). Could your colleagues say the same of you?

[1] Chambers 21st Century English Dictionary (Edinburgh, Scotland) 1996. [2] Holy Bible, New International Version (Hodder & Stoughton: London) 2011, British Biblica edition.

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