Are you looking biblical teaching on integrity? This character trait is an essential a part of parenting our children in Christ. Integrity is a widely valued and appreciated character trait, and one worth taking the time to teach well.
God’s desire for his people to live with integrity can be vividly seen in in the gospels. So that’s where we are going to explore integrity today.
What does it mean to have integrity?
To have integrity means being consistent, whole, and honest, in what you say, think, and do. The truth is that the good and bad things we do and say start with our thoughts (Mark 7:20-23).
No matter how good we talk about ourselves, our behaviors and attitudes reveal what’s really going on inside of us. And what we value becomes obvious when we face hard choices.
Often, who we really are is revealed when we think no one is watching.
God knows our thoughts, who we really are, and wants us to be the same whether or not someone else is watching.Parenting in Christ: Lessons from the Parables
Integrity is important in relationships because it builds trust and creates closeness.
“A parent with integrity is a blessing to their child” (Proverbs 20:7).
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If we are not truthful about what we really think and feel, if we pretend to be better than we are, we are hypocrites.
Hypocrites hide who they are and what they value most.
They pretend to be good, lying in order to get other people will like them. They are overly proud and not worthy of trust.
Research indicates that children start out believing all lies and bad, but learn over time that some lies are OK. And they learn to lie for the same reasons adults do. They do it to get out of trouble, to impress or protect someone, or to be polite.
As parents, it’s tempting to lie to get children to do what they should, but this destroys trust. It is a hollow victory and a decisive betrayal.
A large part of Jesus’ ministry on earth involved revealing truth and restoring wholeness.
In John 18:37 he said, “For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
There many bible stories about integrity. One of my favorites is in Luke 10:30-35. Here, a teacher of the law questions Jesus, nitpicking about what it means to love your neighbor. If you are looking for an escape clause to get out of loving others, your heart is in the wrong place.
In response, Jesus shared the following parable from which we can learn a lot, especially about integrity. He speaks to the issue of holiness & love – outside appearances and acting (or failing to act) in a way that demonstrates inner holiness.
A Bible Story About Integrity
A man was going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Some robbers surrounded him, tore off his clothes, and beat him. Then they left him lying there on the ground almost dead.
It happened that a priest was going down that road. When he saw the man, he did not stop to help him. He walked away. Next, a holy man came near. He saw the hurt man, but he went around him. He would not stop to help him either. The holy man just walked away.
Then a Samaritan man traveled down that road. (Samaritans were hated and considered criminals). He came to the place where the hurt man was lying. He saw the man and felt very sorry for him. The Samaritan went to the hurt man and poured olive oil and wine on his wounds (to help him). Then he covered the man’s wounds with cloth. He put the man on his donkey, and he took him to a hotel. There he cared for him. The next day, the man took out two silver coins and gave them to the hotel manager. He said, “Take care of this man. If you spend more money on him, I will pay it back to you when I come by again.”
Luke 10:30-35 from the Easy to Read Version with additional explanation in the parentheses provided by the author.
Breaking down the story
The holy men in this parable were hypocrites. They pretended to be holy, but their actions showed that their hearts were not holy. These men who claimed to know God, did not love others or care about their suffering.
God is love. If you know God, you know love, and you care for others (I John 4:21).
When you have integrity, your actions match your words, even when you don’t feel like it.
The teacher of the law was looking to have Jesus validate the way he was already living, rather than conforming himself to love bigger and more boldly, as God is calling all of us to.
A Man of Integrity and Character
The Samaritan man stepped outside of the norm. He took a risk and spent money and time to care for a stranger, who was most likely Jewish – a people at odds with his people. Nevertheless, his heart and character held enough love to cover over any rivalry or pride and to do what was right.
Certainly, our children need courage, like the Samaritan man, to do what is unpopular and unexpected, when it is the right thing to do. Our children need encouragement from us to be bold and defiant in the face of evil.
Living in such honesty requires great courage to be truthful, to reveal our weakness and failure, and to stand up for what’s right in the face of pressure to do otherwise.
This doesn’t mean we need to be perfect, but humble and honest, especially about our failures (I John 1:8), “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’, ‘no.”(Matthew 5:37). The ugly truth is better than a pretty lie.
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Three Tips for Building Integrity
Integrity is not a concrete concept and can be difficult to teach our children. So here are three tips to help you create an environment that inspires your children to live in integrity.
Tell Inspiring Stories
Tell children stories of when someone told bravely told the truth. It is more effective for encouraging kids to be honest than cautionary tales about the dangers of lying. We can share these stories and help them to be honest by giving them confidence that we will be understanding with them in their weakness.
Make It Easier To Confess
We can give them courage, by offering them grace, help, and prayer in their time of need, just as Jesus has done for us (Hebrews 4:15-16, Ephesians 3:12, James 5:16). As we say in the parable, Jesus did not condemn the teacher of the law, but patiently challenged him to see how much greater love can be.
Be A Good Example
And of course, we can be an example of courageous integrity in the way we live. We can respond to our children with extraordinary love and patience.
For example, consider how you respond to a child who is having a meltdown. How can your response encourage or discourage them towards authenticity and integrity? And hos does your response demonstrate integrity?
Some Final Thoughts on Integrity
Integrity is certainly one of those lessons better caught then taught. If you don’t live a life of integrity, much less teach it, you’re not going to see it in your kids.
If you have teens, you also might find my 5 Tips for Dealing with a Lying Teenager blog post helpful on our non-profit ministry blog at Finally Family Homes.
More Bible Studies on Integrity
This blog post includes excerpts from my book, Parenting in Christ: Lessons from the Parables.
If you’re looking for a youth bible study on integrity, it can be found in the companion book, Growing in Christ: Lessons from the Parables for Kids.
If you’d like to dig deeper into biblical teaching on integrity, I recommend digging into the gospels and asking, “What did Jesus do or say that was unexpected or might have made others feel uncomfortable?: Most likely, he was revealing a truth or being honest about something that could offend someone’s pride or challenge appearances. He was demonstrating moments of bold integrity.
If you’d like to read more about raising children of integrity and character, check out: