Read: Proverbs 22:1-16
Consider: Today’s reading from Proverbs 22 starts with the conjecture that having a ‘good name’ and being ‘esteemed’ are better than great riches and gold and silver. Some years ago I wrote a post under the heading ‘Developing financial integrity’. It was clear to me then and is clear to me now that many people place a higher value on wealth, than on maintaining their good name.
Integrity can be described as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. The character of a person displaying integrity is that their life should accurately reflect those high ideals. In other words they should ‘walk the talk’. There are many facets to integrity, including keeping commitments, speaking the truth, practicing self-control, avoiding temptation, guarding your tongue and forgiving wrong.
Let’s look at an incident from the life of Jesus, as recorded in Mark 10:35-45. Just before this incident Jesus had been teaching his disciples and the crowds of followers. At this point we are told: ‘… the disciples were astonished …’ (10:32). However, we soon see true character coming out in James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who asked Jesus: Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory (10:37). James and John were more interested in having positions that would demonstrate to everyone that they were important people. We know that the reaction of the other disciples was that they were indignant with James and John for having the nerve to ask such a question. We don’t know if the other disciples’ indignation was because they hadn’t thought of asking Jesus themselves, but we do know how Jesus dealt with it.
Jesus called the disciples together and told them that it wasn’t a question of who was most important, or who could exercise the most authority (Mark 10:42). What he says is very profound: Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all (10:43-44). Jesus told the disciples that their example was not to be the rulers and those in authority; their example was to be that of the servant. He then goes on to say: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45). Their example was to be Jesus himself.
If you want to know what integrity looks like in action, then look at the life of Jesus. He is to be our example and we are to imitate him. Paul, writing to the Philippian church, says: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8).
If you value your good name, then follow the example of Jesus.
Pray: Father, forgive us when we let pride and ambition cloud our judgement. May we imitate Christ, following his example of servanthood and may we show that we follow the highest level of integrity in everything we do. Amen