God builds our character and teaches us the importance of integrity, before He puts us in powerful roles of leadership. A young man named Joseph faced several integrity forks in his life – some he failed, some he passed:
- Joseph’s ego gets the best of him when he brags about his coat of many colors to his brothers.
- Sold by his brothers into slavery, he chooses to serve Potiphar so well that he gets a promotion.
- In a strong display of integrity, Joseph refuses to lay with Potiphar’s wife. His faith is more important than pleasure.
- He ends up in jail, falsely accused of rape. He could have sulked and whined, but he serves well and is put in charge of the jail.
- He interprets a dream and asks to be remembered and freed, but God decides to leave him in jail for a couple more years.
Obviously Joseph has learned humility and integrity since his youthful days of taunting his brothers; so why another two years in jail and slavery? Because God knows what Joseph doesn’t: that he is about to become Pharaoh’s right hand man.
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:41–43 ESV).
Can you imagine having that kind of power? It’s been said that God doesn’t always give us what we want because He knows we can’t handle it. In this case, Joseph had a little more character and integrity to develop before he could hold that kind of power – and before he could forgive the brothers who sold him into slavery.
Joseph is a beautiful example of how the interplay of power, integrity, and faith can enable leaders to have integrity of heart. God shaped and molded him in order to build character and integrity – and to bring glory to God.
Instead of edging God out, Jesus instead calls us to integrity of heart –to exalt God only. He calls us to make decisions based on what the right thing to do is. We know what’s right because we study His Word and His examples teach us. We align our values, our choices, and our leadership to bring glory to God and to lift up Jesus as our leadership role model.
When faced with integrity forks in the road, we ask:
- Will Jesus be disappointed if I do this?
- Will making this choice bring glory to God?
- Will this store up treasure in heaven?
- If we advocate for this issue, how will it serve as an example of integrity based leadership?
- How will this statement align with my Biblical values?
- How can I serve this person?
There is a scene in the movie Les Miserables in which an ex-convict, Jean Valjean, has just been released after nineteen years in prison. Rejected by innkeepers who do not want to take in a convict, Valjean sleeps wherever he can. A Catholic Bishop takes him in and gives him shelter. In the middle of the night, Valjean steals the bishop’s solid silverware and flees. As he is about to take the candlesticks as well, the bishop discovers him. Valjean hits the bishop in the head, fleeing as he leaves behind the candlesticks. He is caught, but the bishop rescues him by claiming to police that the silverware was a gift and at that point gives him his two silver candlesticks, chastising him in front of the officers for leaving in such a rush and forgetting them.
After the police leave, the bishop tells Valjean, “With this silver, I have bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give you back to God.” It is a beautiful picture of the power to serve. The bishop could have had Valjean arrested; he could have been angry over the affront to his dignity, or fearful of Valjean as a convict. He could have been too proud to allow Valjean to stay the night. Instead, he did not think of his own needs. He challenged Valjean through serving him – and in doing so exalted God only.
When was the last time your choices exalted God only?
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 6:1 ESV)
Jesus warned us against doing the right things for the wrong reasons. It’s a choice between image and integrity.*
I was in Israel a few years ago, and after a long and hot day in the Golan Heights, we returned to our hostel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Earlier that morning a friend and I had swum in the sea and enjoyed the refreshing water. So we decided late in the afternoon to swim again and cool off from the summer heat. We had swum out about a mile when we realized we were caught in a strong current and being carried down the sea. Turns out the currents run much stronger in the evening. The same thing happens as followers of Jesus live in the world. We get caught in a current of worldly values that pulls us out of integrity with Jesus. We want to appear successful, confident, and professional. Our society is obsessed with image. That’s just what Jesus warned against – giving to the poor to create an image of compassion, praying in public to appear “Christian”, fasting in public to appear pious – making decisions based on how others will see us. Image is driven by pride, fear and ego and we find ourselves asking these kinds of questions:
- What will people think of me if I do this?
- How will the boss perceive me if I take time off for a family event?
- This coat is warmer, but I look much better in the other one.
- If we advocate for this issue, how will it affect my work, my business?
- How will this statement make my company look in the eyes of the media?
We “edge God out”(EGO). We become two faced and lose our ability to lead.
How are you edging God out?
*originally written for www.LeadLikeJesus.com/blog