Integer or Fraction?
living the whole package
A Long Beach, California, man stopped by a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise to pick up a container of chicken for himself and the young woman with him. Inadvertently the manager of the store handed the man a KFC box he had used as camouflage to carry the day’s cash proceeds to the bank.
The fellow took the box, and the two drove away. When they stopped at a park to enjoy their chicken, they discovered nearly $3,000 instead. What should he do? Realizing there had been a mistake, he returned to the KFC restaurant and handed the box back to the manager. The manager was elated: “I want to call the news and have them write up a story and take your picture. You’re the most honest guy in town.”
“Oh, no, don’t do that!” he pleaded.
“Well, you see, I’m married, and the woman I’m with is not my wife!”
Honest yet dishonest! Truthful? Not at all: integrity cannot be compartmentalized. It is an internal consistency, the opposite of hypocrisy. Integrity is defined as the state of being complete, unified, without division, genuine. It comes from the world of mathematics—an integer is a whole number (1, 2, 3, etc.), not a fraction (which is only part of a whole). In ethics, integrity is regarded as the truthfulness or consistency of one’s thoughts, actions, and words. This means being what we say we are. Doing what we say we will do—truth speech. Integrity defines who we are—truthful people, not just people of the truth.
Renewal Touches Everything
Scripture links revival in our hearts with truthfulness: “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. . . . Laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:23-25, NASB; cf. Col. 3:9, 10).1 With the new identity we experience in Christ at conversion, integrity moves onto center stage. Putting on the new self in Christ involves laying aside falsehood and speaking only truth to those around us. Truthful speech becomes a pattern of the way we talk. We nurture truthfulness as the foundation for mutual trust in all our relationships. This truthfulness expresses both righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). The “holiness of truth” stretches our moral vision beyond doctrine and theology to God Himself, who alone is holy (Rev. 15:4). The profound reality is that truth and truthfulness are personal.
Truth in Action
“What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus. A good question—perhaps the most profound question in the entire Bible (John 18:38). It echoes our secular worldview and culture. It is at the core of who we are as moral beings. The next thought is “Am I a truthful person?”
Before Pilate even asked, Jesus had already declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, NASB). This is a bold biblical definition: Jesus is truth. His nature, His very spirit, is truth. At its core, truth is a Person. This means truth is personal. It is not abstract, not mere teaching. It is first a matter of character and is expressed in actions or words by a person. The teachings of Jesus are true because they express who He is. Truth, then, brings us into a personal relationship with the very Source of authentic life—Jesus Christ. As the Truth, Jesus will always engage us personally. His person encounters our person—to the truthfulness of our own being and doing. His person brings example, hope, courage, and power to be true in a world of deceit and illusion.
Truth then requires us to question our personal inner moral consistency. “Am I a truthful person? Would I be, like Jesus, truthful at the core of my being?”
Truth in the Remnant
The book of Revelation describes God’s end-time people as impeccable with unquestionable integrity—even at risk of life and fortune. No lie or falsehood is found in the mouth of those who follow the Lamb: they are blameless (Rev. 14:5). The vision echoes Zephaniah, who says, “The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths” (Zeph. 3:13, NASB). As firstfruits who have experienced the renewing power of the Lamb’s blood, God’s people imitate and reflect Christ’s truthfulness in both word and action—for He is named both Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11; 3:14). That is how they think. The mind of Christ has become their own (cf. Rev. 7:1-14; 14:1-5).
The contrast between the forces of evil and the Lamb’s followers is between deceit and truth—what comes out of the mouth (cf. Rev. 12:15, 16; 13:5, 6; 16:13, 14; 14:5). Only truthful people will be able to enter the Holy City (Rev. 21:27; 22:14, 15). The reference to those “who love and practice lying” presses the question of one’s being in relation to doing (Rev. 22:15, NASB; cf. Rev. 22:11; 21:8, 17; cf. 2 Thess. 2:7-13; John 3:19-21). Truth is a moral orientation. To “love . . . lying” goes deeper than to “practice lying.” A tendency toward falsehood leads to lying. The person who loves falsehood has a kinship to it and the father of lies: one speaks from one’s own nature (John 8:44). Who we are at our core perfectly corresponds to how we act. Our commitment to truth is verified by our words and deeds. We must first be truthful people if we hope to speak or to live truthfully. Truthfulness runs deeper than doctrine or theoretically reflecting God and His truth to a deluded world. It is about every aspect of our lives. The religious and moral aspects are indivisible.
Truthfulness and Revival
Why does Scripture again and again link revival with truthfulness? It is because trust is the foundation of authentic relationships. Community requires openness and honesty. There can be no genuine community between false people. Being dishonest with others falsifies us. We are called to be whole so that we may keep and build up fellowship. Integrity sets us free to live with our sibling or spouse or colleague or friend. We can look into another person’s eyes without shame or guilt. We are whole for one another—and for God! Truthfulness allows us to look at ourselves in the mirror. It will allow us to look into our Savior’s eyes as well (Rev. 1:14; 2:18; 5:6; 6:16; 19:12; 20:11).
There are no exceptions to, or degrees of, truthfulness. “God requires that truthfulness shall mark His people, even in the greatest peril.”2 Remember Betsie ten Boom telling the gestapo exactly where she and Corrie were hiding the fugitive Jews they kept in their home? The pounding at their door had come unexpectedly, sending a thrill of terror through everyone sitting around the dining room table eating supper.
It was all very rehearsed. As Corrie methodically made her way toward the pounding, everyone scooted the large table aside, lifted the rug underneath, opened the trapdoor below, grabbed their plate and silverware and everything that would give the appearance of a large gathering, and hurriedly stepped down into the darkness. By the time the gestapo rushed through the door, Betsie was standing at the table as if only she, her father, and Corrie had been eating. When they had thoroughly checked the premises and found no one, the officer in charge demanded the Ten Boom family to tell him where they where hiding the Jews.
“I know they are in here. Don’t lie to me!”
After some strained silence, Betsie finally gave them away. “They are under the table.”
With that Corrie almost died of a heart attack. The officer, however, didn’t take Betsie seriously. “Don’t make fun of me! Where are they?”
“They are under the table,” she repeated, pointing again to the floor under the table. He just scoffed and stomped off.
Corrie later rebuked her sister: “Why did you tell them they were under the table? We could have lost everything for sure.” But Betsie was adamant. She chose to be truthful because being so reflected the mind of Christ. She would trust Him with the truth and consequences, no matter what. She would tell the truth always. Amazingly, when Betsie told the truth to the gestapo officer, God used that very truth to distract his thinking. Unable to imagine the truthfulness of such a claim, he didn’t believe her—and left.
Is it safe to trust Jesus with the truth; with being truthful; with truth speech? When Jesus is our point of reference and identity, we will. Integrity in the depths of our hearts will always reflect our connection with Christ. We will be truthful people, not just people who know truth.
“Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord. Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies!” (Ps. 34:11, 12, NLT).3
- Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
- Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890), p. 656.
- Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.