Integrity Slipping?

by Dan Busby

What are the greatest household risks? Some are what you would expect: 460,000 people a year are injured by kitchen knives; manual and power saws account for about 100,000 injuries a year. Some risks are surprising. Got any draperies? Every year, 20 people in America are strangled to death by drapery cords. Some 4,000 of us seriously injure ourselves on pillows.

What is one of our greatest dangers for injury? An issue that tops the charts is the potential for a spiritual 911-type injury is when our integrity slips.

Politicians spin promises, telemarketers scam the elderly, job seekers enhance resumes, repair shops pad bills, and students steal essays over the Internet.

People do these things even though they know the scriptures say: “The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight” (Proverbs 11:1).

But, you say, “Those examples do not often relate to churches. What are some examples that apply to us?”

Having an integrity slip can happen in many ways. Here are two examples.

Integrity can begin to wane when we focus too much on comparing our church with another.

John Ortberg tells the story of a conversation with two other pastors. One man said to the other, “So, how is your church going?” The pastor responded, “Excellent, we have about 1,000 at our church. How’s your church going?”

The first pastor said, “Well, the Lord’s blessing us all right. We run around 1,500 or so.”

John says, “Then they looked at me. I knew what was coming next. I was working at a church that had 250 attendees at the time. And then a little voice, so quiet I was hardly even aware of it, began to whisper a management impression strategy to me: Say the church has about 300 people. 250 people is really small.”

“Right at the same time, another inner voice responded: What are you doing? You don’t even know these men. Are you willing to trade your integrity, which, when you come right down to it, is all you really have, for the sake of the status you would gain by 50 people?”

Ortberg continues, “So I said we run about 2,000. Not just transfers from other churches, either. Seriously impressive converts—Hugh Hefner, Jimmy Hoffa, the Dalai Lama.”

A related integrity loss chart topper can involve competing. Many of us are driven to compete. Professor Jonah Berger, the James G. Campbell assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business, suggests that people who are slightly behind in a competition are more likely to win than those who are slightly ahead. He found that NBA teams that were down by one point at halftime were more likely to win than teams that were ahead by one point at halftime. It’s all about competing. No sports arena sells a giant foam hand holding up two fingers.

As an author for more than 20 years, I am curious, but not obsessed, about how books written by other authors are selling. As Ortberg says, “My hunch is that Jeremiah never checked out Israel Today to see if he had passed up Isaiah on the nonfiction bestseller list. William Shakespeare didn’t look to see how many copies of his plays Christopher Marlowe sold.”

Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). The entire life of Jesus isn’t the story of somebody climbing up a ladder; it’s a picture of someone coming down—a series of demotions. The problem with spending our lives climbing up the ladder is that we will go right past Jesus, for He’s coming down.

People who are servants—humbly, honestly, and joyfully—keep getting revealed as the biggest winners. People who recognize and embrace their smallness keep getting bigger and bigger in God’s eyes. It’s the oddest scoring system.

So, step up and sign your own non-compare, non-compete agreement. Paul said it best: “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (Galatians 6:4-5).

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.