Who are you when no one is looking? Are you the same person in public that you are in private?
Perhaps you are not an Al Qaeda sleeper, an international jewel thief, or a painter by day and a serial killer by night. Chances you have never been indicted for securities fraud or insider trading. Maybe you have not used performance enhancing drugs to inflate your career statistics.
But who are you when no one is looking? At the heart of the issue is the character quality of integrity.
In Psalm 15, David explains the characteristics and the benefits of being an integrity-driven person. He says that the person who demonstrates integrity enjoys a very secure position within God’s family.
The structure of the psalm breaks down into three parts: a question, an answer, and a promise. The question is found in verse 1. David receives a three-fold answer to his question in verse 2. Verses 3-5 give the answer in more detail. The promise is located in the last phrase of verse 5.
In verse 1, David asks the question, “Who is welcome in God’s presence? Whom will God protect and sustain?”
People clamor to get sideline passes and front-row seats at sporting events. We buy raffle tickets to be part of a golf foursome with a celebrity or sports hero. Lobbyists and high-income supporters spend thousands to rub shoulders with, or at least sit within ten tables of a congressman or presidential candidate.
Yet, what does it take to get a sideline pass to walk with the King of Kings? What can we do to be front and center with the Lord of Lords who created the universe?
The answer, found in verse 2, is that the one who is welcome in God’s presence is one who is blameless, one who does what is righteous, and one who speaks the truth. Looking further in verses 3-5, these three characteristics are explained in greater detail, but in reverse order. Verse 3 corresponds to the third quality, speaking truth; the first portion of verse 4 corresponds to the second quality, doing righteousness; and the last part of verse 4 along with most of verse 5 corresponds to the first quality, blamelessness.
If you combine these qualities together, they make up the biblical idea of integrity. A person of integrity is truly authentic, from the core to the crust.
A person of integrity speaks truth from their heart (2c). They don’t just speak truth; they live truth. They have no slander on their tongue (3a). A truthful person avoids interpersonal intrigue. This kind of person “does his neighbor no wrong” (3b). Speaking truth also means that one “casts no slur on his fellowman” (3c). A person of integrity holds no grudges.
A person of integrity is one “who does what is righteous” (2b). A person of integrity is ethically righteous; he or she acts in an honorable manner. Verse 4 paints a contrast about this person: “who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord.” Rather than being caught up in a celebrity mentality, this person views life and people through God’s eyes.
The third characteristic of an integrity-driven person is one whose “walk is blameless” (2a). He keeps his word. She does what she says she will do, when she says she will do it. A person of integrity keeps his promises even if it will cost him something. He “keeps his oath even when it hurts” (4c). Rather than deliberately trying to hurt himself, it means that once he makes a promise, if circumstances change so that he is at a disadvantage, he still keeps his word. A person of integrity chooses commitment over convenience. In addition, a man or woman of integrity is one who “lends his money without usury” (5a). Rather than the charging of interest, this is the idea of exploitation and abuse. She is not going to be the family loan shark. He is not going to take a friend out to McDonald’s for lunch and expect the friend to take him to Daniel’s Broiler. Lastly, a person of integrity is not influenced by bribes. He “does not accept a bribe against the innocent” (5b).
In addition to being welcome in God’s presence, a person of integrity enjoys a fundamental stability. David writes, “He who does these things will never be shaken” (5c).
Just north of Los Angeles is the 6 Flags Magic Mountain Amusement Park. Visitors to the park can ride an elevator to the top of a high observation tower and enjoy a magnificent view of the entire park and the surrounding area. What many visitors don’t know is that the tower is designed to have a sway factor of seven feet in either direction at its highest point. In the event of an earthquake of high winds, the tower has the potential to sway 14 feet back and forth! The tower definitely will be shaken, but the foundation will remain secure.
David says that the true worshipper of God has that kind of structural integrity. They can go through hard times knowing that their foundation will remain secure and that they will always be present in God’s presence.
(Synopsis of a Bible study on Psalm 15 that I led at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA.)