Integrity

One-numeral

Daniel 6:7, 10 “The king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lion’s den… Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before.”

“The numbers don’t lie.”

Many people in our highly technical and mathematical world trust the numbers. Before they believe something, they want to see how it “all adds up.” They prefer careers in accounting or computer science or engineering because they don’t have to deal with gray areas or ever-changing human beings. “The numbers don’t lie.”

It is true that 10 is always 10, and 6 is always 6, and Π is always Π (though the decimal point may run on forever). There is something reassuring about knowing that such numbers or “integers” don’t lead a double life, with a secret identity or hidden set of alternate values waiting to surprise us.

If only people were the same! Our word to describe such “number-like” people who are always the same, whether in public or in private, whether with family and close friends or people they have never met, comes from the word “integer.” We call it “integrity.”

Integrity also happens to be a Christian virtue. God desires that we live our lives with a certain sameness. Language which is inappropriate to use around church is inappropriate at home, work, or play. Behaviors which are unacceptable if someone else is watching are unacceptable even if I am the only person in the room.

We all fall short of true integrity. All of us lead something of a double life because of the struggle between the Christian spirit and the sinful nature within us. The world in which we live places constant pressure upon us to give up our integrity–to confess one thing on Sunday and live something else the rest of the week.

No one in the Bible knew this better than Daniel. Daniel had not achieved perfect Christian integrity, but his life was a model of integrity to those around whom he lived. He didn’t try to live by two sets of standards–following one set for his home and worship life, and another set for his career in the halls of governmental power. Even in the presence of pagans, the standards by which Daniel lived remained the same.

Such integrity does not always win one friends, however. “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God’” (Daniel 6:4-5).

You remember how the story continues. Daniel’s jealous co-workers convinced the king to pass a law. For one month no one was to pray to any God except to King Darius himself. But Daniel was a man of integrity, and law or no law, “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).

For his integrity Daniel received a free night’s accommodations in the lions’ den. It was a small token to show how much our world appreciates Christian integrity.

The point here is not to discourage us from striving for integrity. Remember, God vindicated Daniel by rescuing him from the lions.

The point is to remind us that striving for such life will always require a stiff, stout battle. Often it becomes a test of our faith.

But faith in the God who delivers his people not only from the mouths of lions, but also from the wages of sin and the jaws of hell is the sure way to win this battle. He gave his one and only Son to forgive our divided hearts, our two-faced behaviors, our duplicitous lives. He gives us his Spirit to replace our sinful actions and attractions with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control” (Galatians 5:22-23). “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

And we can trust that, like the numbers, our God doesn’t lie.

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