Would You Maintain Your Integrity?
HOW many sparrows died yesterday? Nobody knows, and probably few people care—there are so many birds. Jehovah, however, does care. Referring to these apparently insignificant birds, Jesus told his disciples: “Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.” He added: “Have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.”—Matthew 10:29, 31.
Later the disciples understood more clearly how much Jehovah valued them. One of them, the apostle John, wrote: “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him.” (1 John 4:9) Jehovah not only provides the ransom but also assures every one of his servants: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.”—Hebrews 13:5.
Clearly, Jehovah’s love for his people is unshakable. However, the question arises, ‘Are we so attached to Jehovah that we will never leave him?’
Satan’s Attempts to Break Our Integrity
When Jehovah drew Satan’s attention to Job’s course of integrity, Satan retorted: “Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it?” (Job 1:9, Today’s English Version) He implied that humans’ loyalty to God depends exclusively on ‘what they can get out of it.’ If this were true, any Christian’s integrity could be compromised—provided the offer was sufficiently tempting.
In Job’s case, Satan initially claimed that Job’s loyalty to God would vanish if he lost his most cherished possessions. (Job 1:10, 11) When this slur proved to be false, Satan alleged: “A man will give up everything in order to stay alive.” (Job 2:4, TEV) While Satan’s claim may be true of some, Job refused to compromise his integrity. The historical record bears that out. (Job 27:5; 42:10-17) Do you have similar loyalty? Or would you let Satan break your integrity? Think about yourself as we examine some truths that involve every Christian.
The apostle Paul believed that true Christian loyalty can be very strong. He wrote: “I am convinced that neither death nor life . . . nor things now here nor things to come . . . nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38, 39) We can have a similar conviction if our love for Jehovah is strong. Such love is an indestructible bond that not even death can conquer.
If we have such a relationship with God, we will never ask, ‘Will I still be serving Jehovah in a few years’ time?’ Such uncertainty would suggest that our loyalty to God depends on what might happen to us during the course of our life. True integrity is impervious to external circumstances. It depends on the sort of person we are inside. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) If we love Jehovah with all our heart, we will never fail him.—Matthew 22:37; 1 Corinthians 13:8.
We must remember, however, that Satan is constantly seeking to break our integrity. He might tempt us to succumb to the desires of the flesh, cave in to peer pressure, or let adversity of some sort cause us to abandon the truth. The world alienated from God is Satan’s principal ally in this attack, although our own imperfections make his task easier. (Romans 7:19, 20; 1 John 2:16) Nevertheless, we do have several advantages in this battle, not the least of which is the fact that we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs.—2 Corinthians 2:11.
What are Satan’s designs? Paul described them in his letter to the Ephesians as “machinations,” or “crafty acts.” * (Ephesians 6:11; footnote) Satan places cunning devices in our way in order to break our integrity. Thankfully, we can recognize these crafty acts, since the Devil’s methods have been recorded for us in God’s Word. Satan’s attempts to destroy the integrity of Jesus and Job exemplify some of the ways he seeks to break our Christian integrity.
Jesus’ Integrity Could Not Be Broken
At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, Satan had the audacity to tempt the Son of God by challenging him to turn a stone into bread. How crafty! Jesus had not eaten for 40 days, so he was doubtless very hungry. (Luke 4:2, 3) Satan suggested that Jesus satisfy his natural desire immediately, in a way that was contrary to Jehovah’s will. Likewise today, the world’s propaganda encourages instant gratification, with little or no thought to the consequences. The message is, ‘You deserve it now,’ or simply, ‘Just do it!’
If Jesus had satisfied the pangs of hunger without considering the repercussions, Satan would have succeeded in getting Jesus to compromise his integrity. Jesus looked at matters spiritually, and he firmly responded: “It is written, ‘Man must not live by bread alone.’”—Luke 4:4; Matthew 4:4.
Satan then shifted direction. Misapplying the Scriptures, from which Jesus had been quoting, the Devil encouraged Jesus to throw himself off the temple battlement. ‘An angel will have to preserve you,’ Satan claimed. Jesus had no intention of demanding miraculous protection from his Father simply to draw attention to himself. “You must not put Jehovah your God to the test,” Jesus said.—Matthew 4:5-7; Luke 4:9-12.
The final tactic that Satan used was more straightforward. He tried to strike a deal with Jesus by offering him all the world and its glory for just one act of worship. It was practically all that Satan had to offer. But how could Jesus perform an act of worship before his Father’s chief enemy? Unthinkable! “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service,” Jesus replied.—Matthew 4:8-11; Luke 4:5-8.
After those three attempts had failed, Satan ‘retired from Jesus until another convenient time.’ (Luke 4:13) This indicates that Satan was constantly on the lookout for an opportunity to put Jesus’ integrity to the test. A convenient time arose some two and a half years later when Jesus began preparing his disciples for his imminent death. The apostle Peter said: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.”—Matthew 16:21, 22.
Might such well-meant but misguided advice have sounded appealing to Jesus, coming as it did from one of his disciples? Jesus immediately recognized that those words reflected Satan’s wishes, not Jehovah’s. Christ firmly responded: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”—Matthew 16:23.
Because of Jesus’ undying love for Jehovah, Satan was unable to break his integrity. Nothing the Devil could offer, no trial, however severe, could weaken Jesus’ loyalty to his heavenly Father. Will we have similar determination when circumstances make it difficult for us to keep our integrity? The example of Job will help us to understand better the challenges we may face.
Loyalty in the Face of Adversity
As Job discovered, adversities can befall us at any time. He was a happily married man with ten children and had a good spiritual routine. (Job 1:5) But unknown to Job, his integrity to God became an issue in the heavenly court, and Satan resolved to break him in any way he could.
In no time, Job lost his material wealth. (Job 1:14-17) Nevertheless, Job’s integrity withstood the test because he had never put his trust in money. Recalling the time when he was rich, Job stated: “If I have put gold as my confidence, . . . if I used to rejoice because my property was much, . . . that too would be an error . . . , for I should have denied the true God above.”—Job 31:24, 25, 28.
Today, it is also possible to lose practically everything we possess overnight. A businessman who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was cheated out of a very large sum of money, leaving him practically bankrupt. He frankly admits: “I nearly had a heart attack. In fact, I think I would have had one had it not been for my relationship with God. Nevertheless, this experience brought home to me the fact that spiritual values were not in first place in my life. The thrill of making money tended to overshadow everything else.” This Witness has since reduced his business activity to a minimum, and he regularly serves as an auxiliary pioneer, devoting 50 hours or more a month in the Christian ministry. Other problems, however, can be even more devastating than the loss of one’s possessions.
Job had scarcely assimilated the news regarding the loss of his riches when he received word that his ten children had died. He still insisted: “Let the name of Jehovah continue to be blessed.” (Job 1:18-21) Would we maintain our integrity if we suddenly lost several members of our family? Francisco, a Christian overseer in Spain, lost his two children in a tragic bus accident. He found comfort by drawing closer to Jehovah and increasing his activity in the Christian ministry.
Even after the shocking loss of his children, Job’s ordeal was far from over. Satan struck him with a repugnant, painful disease. At that moment, Job received bad advice from his wife. “Curse God and die!” she urged him. Job ignored her advice, and he did not “sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9, 10) His integrity depended, not on the support of his family, but on his personal relationship with Jehovah.
Flora, whose husband and eldest son abandoned the Christian way more than ten years ago, understands the feelings Job must have had. “When you suddenly lose the support of your family, it can be traumatic,” she admits. “But I knew I wouldn’t find happiness outside Jehovah’s organization. So I stood firm and put Jehovah in first place while endeavoring to continue to be a good wife and mother. I prayed constantly, and Jehovah strengthened me. I’m a happy person because, despite my husband’s determined opposition, I’ve learned to depend entirely on Jehovah.”
Satan’s next device to break Job’s integrity involved three of his companions. (Job 2:11-13) How distressing it must have been when they began to criticize him. If he had accepted their arguments, he would have lost his confidence in Jehovah God. Their discouraging counsel could have broken his spirit and his integrity, and thus Satan’s design would have succeeded.
Instead, Job insisted: “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!” (Job 27:5) He did not say, ‘I shall not let you men take away my integrity!’ Job knew that his integrity depended on him and his love for Jehovah.
An Old Ploy to Capture New Prey
Satan still makes use of misguided counsel or thoughtless remarks from friends and fellow believers. Discouragement from within the congregation can undermine our morale more easily than persecution from without. A Christian elder who formerly saw active combat in the army contrasted that with the pain he suffered because of the thoughtless words and actions of some fellow Christians. About the latter, he said: “It’s the hardest thing I have ever been through.”
From another angle, we could get so upset with the imperfections of fellow believers that we stop speaking to certain ones or even start missing Christian meetings. Relieving our hurt feelings might seem to be the most important issue. But how sad to take such a shortsighted viewpoint and allow our most precious possession—our relationship with Jehovah—to be weakened by what others do or say. If we allowed that to happen, we would be falling prey to one of Satan’s age-old ploys.
Rightly, we look for high standards in the Christian congregation. But if we expect too much from our fellow worshipers, who are still imperfect, we are bound to be disappointed. In contrast, Jehovah is realistic in what he requires of his servants. If we imitate his example, we will be prepared to put up with their imperfections. (Ephesians 4:2, 32) The apostle Paul gave this advice: “If you are angry, do not let anger lead you into sin; do not let sunset find you still nursing it; leave no loop-hole for the devil.”—Ephesians 4:26, 27, The New English Bible.
As the Bible clearly shows, Satan uses a wide variety of cunning devices in order to discover—if he can—the way to break a Christian’s integrity. Some of his ploys are attractive to the fallen flesh, others are a source of pain. From the foregoing discussion, you can see why you should never be caught unawares. With your love for God firmly in your heart, resolve to prove the Devil a liar and make Jehovah’s heart glad. (Proverbs 27:11; John 8:44) Remember, true Christian integrity must never be compromised, whatever trials come our way.
^ par. 11 Bible scholar W. E. Vine says that the original Greek word can also be rendered “a cunning device.”