Integrity Leads the Upright Ones
“MAN, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation,” says the Bible. (Job 14:1) Pain and suffering seem to be the common lot of human existence. Why, even everyday life can be full of anxieties and turmoil! What will guide us successfully through trying circumstances and help us maintain a righteous standing with God?
Consider the example of a wealthy man named Job, who lived some 3,500 years ago in what is now Arabia. What calamity Satan brought upon this God-fearing man! He lost all his livestock and suffered the loss of his beloved children in death. Shortly thereafter, Satan struck Job with malignant boils from head to foot. (Job, chapters 1, 2) Job had no knowledge of why bad things were happening to him. Yet, “Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10) “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!” he said. (Job 27:5) Yes, Job’s integrity guided him through his trials.
Integrity is defined as moral soundness or completeness and involves being blameless and faultless in the sight of God. However, it does not imply perfection of speech and action by imperfect humans, who cannot possibly measure up completely to God’s standards. Rather, human integrity denotes wholeness or completeness of heart devotion to Jehovah and to his will and purpose. Such godly devotion guides, or leads, the upright ones under all conditions and at all times. The first part of the 11th chapter of the Bible book of Proverbs shows how our integrity can guide us in various areas of life and assures us of the blessings that will follow. With keen interest, then, let us turn to what is recorded there.
Integrity Leads to Honesty in Business
Highlighting the principle of honesty, using poetic words rather than legal terms, King Solomon of ancient Israel says: “A cheating pair of scales is something detestable to Jehovah, but a complete stone-weight is a pleasure to him.” (Proverbs 11:1) This is the first of four occurrences in the book of Proverbs where scales and weights are used to denote that Jehovah desires his worshipers to be honest in their business dealings.—Proverbs 16:11; 20:10, 23.
The prosperity of those resorting to a cheating pair of scales—or to dishonesty —may be enticing. But would we really want to forsake God’s standards of good and bad by engaging in unethical business practices? Not if we are guided by integrity. We shun dishonesty because a complete stone-weight, a just weight signifying honesty, delights Jehovah.
“Wisdom Is With the Modest Ones”
King Solomon continues: “Has presumptuousness come? Then dishonor will come; but wisdom is with the modest ones.” (Proverbs 11:2) Presumptuousness—whether it manifests itself as pride, disobedience, or envy—brings disgrace. On the other hand, humble recognition of our limitations is the course of wisdom. How well Scriptural examples illustrate the truth of this proverb!
An envious Levite, Korah, led a rebellious mob against the authority of Jehovah’s appointed servants Moses and Aaron. What was the outcome of that presumptuous act? ‘The earth opened its mouth and proceeded to swallow up’ some of the rebels, while others, including Korah, were consumed by fire. (Numbers 16:1-3, 16-35; 26:10; Deuteronomy 11:6) What dishonor! Consider also Uzzah, who presumptuously reached out and grabbed hold of the ark of the covenant to prevent it from falling. He was struck dead on the spot. (2 Samuel 6:3-8) How vital that we shun presumptuousness!
A humble and modest person does not suffer dishonor even when he errs. Job, though exemplary in many ways, was imperfect. His trials revealed a serious flaw in some of his thinking. In defending himself against his accusers, Job became somewhat unbalanced. He even implied that he was more righteous than God. (Job 35:2, 3) How did Jehovah correct Job’s thinking?
Pointing to the earth, the sea, the starry heavens, some of the animals, and other marvels of creation, Jehovah gave Job a lesson in man’s littleness compared with God’s greatness. (Job, chapters 38-41) Nowhere in his speech did Jehovah state why Job was suffering. He did not need to. Job was modest. He humbly recognized the great difference between him and God, between his own imperfection and weaknesses and Jehovah’s righteousness and power. “I make a retraction,” he said, “and I do repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6) Job’s integrity led him to accept the reproof readily. What about us? Led by integrity, would we readily accept reproof or correction when needed?
Moses too was modest and humble. When he was wearing himself out in caring for the problems of others, his father-in-law, Jethro, offered a practical solution: Share some responsibility with other qualified men. Recognizing his own limitations, Moses wisely accepted the suggestion. (Exodus 18:17-26; Numbers 12:3) A modest man is not reluctant to delegate authority to others, nor does he fear that he somehow loses control by sharing appropriate responsibilities with other qualified men. (Numbers 11:16, 17, 26-29) Rather, he is eager to help them to progress spiritually. (1 Timothy 4:15) Should that not be true of us also?
‘The Way of the Blameless One Is Straight’
Recognizing that integrity does not always shield the upright from danger or calamity, Solomon states: “The integrity of the upright ones is what leads them, but distortion by those dealing treacherously will despoil them.” (Proverbs 11:3) Integrity indeed guides the upright to do what is right in God’s eyes, even under difficult circumstances, and brings benefits in the long run. Job refused to abandon his integrity, and Jehovah “blessed the end of Job afterward more than his beginning.” (Job 42:12) Those who deal treacherously may feel that they are bettering themselves at the expense of someone else and may even seem to prosper for a time. But sooner or later their own deceit will destroy them.
“Valuable things will be of no benefit on the day of fury,” says the wise king, “but righteousness itself will deliver from death.” (Proverbs 11:4) How foolish to slave for material gain but fail to make room for personal study, prayer, meeting attendance, and the field ministry—the very activities that deepen our love for God and strengthen our devotion to him! No amount of wealth will bring deliverance through the upcoming great tribulation. (Matthew 24:21) Only the righteousness of the upright will. (Revelation 7:9, 14) We are wise, therefore, to take to heart Zephaniah’s entreaty: “Before there comes upon you the day of Jehovah’s anger, seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness.” (Zephaniah 2:2, 3) Meanwhile, let us make it our aim to ‘honor Jehovah with our valuable things.’—Proverbs 3:9.
Emphasizing further the value of pursuing righteousness, Solomon contrasts the outcome of the blameless with that of the wicked, saying: “The righteousness of the blameless one is what will make his way straight, but in his own wickedness the wicked one will fall. The righteousness of the upright ones is what will deliver them, but by their craving those dealing treacherously will themselves be caught. When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; and even expectation based on powerfulness has perished. The righteous is the one rescued even from distress, and the wicked one comes in instead of him.” (Proverbs 11:5-8) The blameless one neither falls in his own ways nor gets tangled up in his own dealings. His way is straight. In the end, the upright are rescued from distress. The wicked may seem powerful, but no such deliverance awaits them.
“A Town Is Elated”
The integrity of the upright and the wickedness of evildoers also have an effect on other people. “By his mouth the one who is an apostate brings his fellowman to ruin,” says the king of Israel, “but by knowledge are the righteous rescued.” (Proverbs 11:9) Who will deny that slander, harmful gossip, obscene talk, and idle chatter are damaging to others? A righteous one’s speech, on the other hand, is pure, well-thought out, and considerate. By knowledge he is rescued because his integrity furnishes him with the points of reasoning needed to show that his accusers are lying.
“Because of the goodness of the righteous ones a town is elated,” continues the king, “but when the wicked ones perish there is a joyful cry.” (Proverbs 11:10) The righteous generally are loved by others, and they make their neighbors feel elated—happy and joyful. No one is really fond of “wicked ones.” When the wicked die, they are not usually mourned by people in general. There certainly will be no sorrow when Jehovah ‘cuts off the wicked from the earth and tears away the treacherous from it.’ (Proverbs 2:21, 22) Rather, there will be joy because they have been removed from the scene. But what about us? We do well to consider if the way we conduct ourselves contributes to the joy of others.
“A Town Is Exalted”
Further contrasting the effect of the upright and the wicked on a community, Solomon states: “Because of the blessing of the upright ones a town is exalted, but because of the mouth of the wicked ones it gets torn down.”—Proverbs 11:11.
Townspeople who follow an upright course promote peace and well-being and build up others in the community. Thus, a town is exalted—it prospers. Those who speak slanderous, hurtful, and wrong things cause unrest, unhappiness, disunity, and trouble. This is particularly so if these individuals are in a position of influence. Such a town suffers disorder, corruption, and moral and perhaps economic deterioration.
The principle stated at Proverbs 11:11 applies with equal force to Jehovah’s people as they associate with one another in their townlike congregations. A congregation in which spiritual people—upright ones led by their integrity—have influence is an assembly of happy, active, and helpful people, bringing honor to God. Jehovah blesses the congregation, and it prospers spiritually. Here and there, the few who may be disgruntled and dissatisfied, who find fault and speak bitterly about the way things are done, are like a “poisonous root” that can spread and poison others who initially were unaffected. (Hebrews 12:15) Such ones often want more authority and prominence. They stir up rumors that there is injustice, ethnic prejudice, or the like, in the congregation or on the part of the elders. Their mouth, indeed, can cause a division in the congregation. Should we not turn a deaf ear to their talk and strive to be spiritual people who contribute to peace and unity in the congregation?
Continuing, Solomon says: “The one in want of heart has despised his own fellowman, but the man of broad discernment is one that keeps silent. The one walking about as a slanderer is uncovering confidential talk, but the one faithful in spirit is covering over a matter.”—Proverbs 11:12, 13.
What great harm is caused by someone who lacks good judgment, or is “in want of heart”! He carries on his loose talk to the point of slander or reviling. The appointed elders must be quick to put an end to such an unwholesome influence. Unlike “the one in want of heart,” a man of discernment knows when to keep silent. Rather than betray a confidence, he covers over the matter. Knowing that an unguarded tongue can cause much harm, a discerning person is “faithful in spirit.” He is loyal to fellow believers and does not divulge confidential matters that might endanger them. What a blessing such integrity-keepers are to the congregation!
To help us walk in the way of the blameless ones, Jehovah provides an abundant supply of spiritual food prepared under the direction of “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) We also receive much personal assistance through Christian elders in our townlike congregations. (Ephesians 4:11-13) We are indeed grateful for these, for “when there is no skillful direction, the people fall; but there is salvation in the multitude of counselors.” (Proverbs 11:14) Come what may, let us be firmly determined to ‘walk in our integrity.’—Psalm 26:1.
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How foolish to slave for material gain but neglect theocratic activities!
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Job was guided by his integrity, and Jehovah blessed him
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Uzzah died for his presumptuousness