Job and Integrity

Webster’s dictionary defines integrity simply as wholeness, but I would like to propose that Webster’s definition is incomplete. There are a great many things on this planet, many of them manmade, which we consider to be “whole,” but are not actually of sound integrity. For example, buildings that are hastily put together, with all their parts intact, are often perceived as “whole,” but as soon as an earthquake, flood, or even natural aging comes into play, the structure crumbles.

I would like to augment Webster’s definition of wholeness with a key action:  “Integrity is wholeness tested under pressure.” The Bible talks about integrity nine times; three of these are in Proverbs, one is in Psalms, and one is in 1st Kings. The remaining four mentions of integrity are in the book of Job, which is known by many as both the oldest and the least inspiring book of the Bible due to the sufferings and agony of the title character.

The book of Job begins with this: “There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity.” The stage of the book of Job is set by a meeting of God and “the accuser,” Satan. God proudly points out to Satan that Job is, as mentioned before, a man of complete integrity. Satan scoffs and says that Job has never been given a reason not to act in integrity, so why should he be acting otherwise? “You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property,” Satan retorts. “Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!

God gives Satan permission to test Job’s integrity, and the book proceeds with Job being robbed of everything he has, from his wealth to his family, and eventually his health. The Bible reports that Job never failed in his integrity by cursing God; the morals and standards he had upheld for himself in times of prosperity stood true in times of great testing when he was stripped of everything but his heart.

Integrity is not something that can be measured or evaluated when there is nothing at stake. You can’t gauge the integrity of a ship’s hull if it is not being tossed about at sea or scraping up against icebergs. Likewise, the only way to tell the integrity of a man is if you take the person that he claims to be in his comfort zone and put him under immense pressure. The man will either conquer the testing and be proven pure, or will crumble under the pressure and be reduced to the basic essence of his humanity.

Integrity is who you are behind the scenes, when all the masks come off and nobody is watching you. When it’s just you and the silence, and you don’t have to put on a façade for anybody. The test of your integrity comes in secret, where nobody is around to applaud you if you succeed, or cheer you on even if you fail.

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