Have you ever asked, “How could he do that? How could anyone do that? He clearly has no moral compass so he can’t possibly have integrity!”
Over the years, I’ve had to rethink my thinking on integrity.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, integrity means “being whole, complete, undivided”—being the same in the dark as in the light. Typically, we consider people who lie, cheat, or steal as those who lack integrity. However, strange as it may sound, people can lie, cheat, and steal or do anything wrong and yet still feel no guilt. How is this possible? They live by a different system of ethics.
Ethics is the study of various systems of morality. Morals are your belief in fundamental principles determining right and wrong. Understanding ethical systems is important in understanding human behavior—why people do what they do.
If you look at someone and think they don’t have integrity—you could be wrong. You see, people can have integrity—be consistently whole and live within their system of ethics—even though their ethical system might be based on unbiblical, ungodly standards.
Consider five types of ethical systems:
#1. CULTURAL ETHICS:
Moral standards are determined by popular opinion within a given culture. Moral absolutes don’t exist. (1) Living by “majority rules” (51% of the people) and not “rocking the boat” (2) Going along with the crowd even if you go against your conscience (3) Sometimes accepting what you would never accept on your own
The Problem? Popular opinion can be wrong and can change.
However, truth is determined by God and is revealed in the Bible. … “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
#2. SITUATIONAL ETHICS:
Moral standards are determined by what appears most loving in each situation. Moral absolutes don’t exist. (1) Lying to protect the feelings or desires of others (2) Permitting unfavorable situations because of not wanting to upset someone (3) Feeling justified in violating the Word of God because an action seems loving
The Problem? Decisions are based on temporary consequences instead of eternal principles, and love is not clearly defined.
However, the Bible says … “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands” (1 John 5:2).
#3. EMOTIVE ETHICS:
Moral standards of right or wrong are not valid—the focus is on feelings. Moral absolutes don’t exist. (1) Telling yourself: “This can’t be wrong because it feels so right.” (2) Indulging in your desires to your own detriment (3) Rejecting reason with no criteria for accountability
The Problem? Human selfishness and desires are allowed full reign, and ethical judgments become immune to reason and fact.
However, the Bible says that emotions are not a dependable guide for human behavior. … “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).
#4. BEHAVIORAL ETHICS:
All human behavior is the result of heredity or environment. Moral standards don’t exist; therefore, morals don’t exist. (1) Justifying negative behavior: “I just can’t help it.” (2) Excusing negative emotions: “I was born this way.” (3) Rationalizing cruelty: “It’s the survival of the fittest.”
The Problem? In this view, people are just programmed machines and thus not responsible for their choices and actions.
However, the Bible says that each person is responsible for their actions. … “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12).
#5. BIBLICAL ETHICS:
Morals standards are determined by the Bible—the unchanging Word of God. Moral absolutes absolutely exist!
The Problem? Some people will struggle with integrity if they mix biblical standards with one of the other four ethical systems.
However, we can never do a wrong act a right way. Ultimately, the Bible says … “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. … Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me” (Psalm 119:160, 133).
I’m so thankful that God uses our ministry resources to help Christians live according to His standards—with biblical integrity. As you seek to live a life of Christian integrity, let this be your prayer: “Lord Jesus, may I live my life with total integrity as I walk in Your truth—being the same in the dark as I am in the light—so others are drawn to You.” Then watch as He draws others to Himself, meeting their needs, filling their hearts, and changing their lives.
Blessings on you throughout the whole year!
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!