Shining in the perfection of integrity

Matthew 5:48 – Be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Integrity is a word in English which is associated with doing what’s right instinctively and from the heart. It implies that, when faced with moral dilemma, an individual will choose the correct path in God’s eyes.

What is wonderful about the original languages of the Bible is how rich they are in meaning. Like facets of a gem glint and sparkle in the sunlight as it is rotated before the discerning eye, the ancient words and language have folds and layers of various shades of meaning.

In Hebrew, a word that is many times translated into English as integrity is the word tom (pronounced tome). At its root, it carries the meaning of completion, or a full measure. Something that is tom cannot be added to because it is an act in its simplest and purest form. Taken in this sense, integrity is then the most pure and simple action that can be accomplished in any given situation. It cannot be improved upon.

Another layer to this Hebrew term is that it describes the inherent nature of the ancient high priest’s ephod, a type of ceremonial breastplate, that was used to divine God’s direction for his people.

Exodus 28:30 – “Place the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece for decisions, so that they will also be over Aaron’s heart whenever he comes before the LORD. Aaron will continually carry the means of decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.

In some translations, these strange Hebrew words are translated as “lights and perfections.” While not fully understood by scholars, it is thought that whatever the Urim and Thummim actually were, they may have lit up in certain fashions to indicate God’s direction when questions were posed of him. What is interesting to me is the word Thummim is the plural of tom, which is our word for integrity. The idea of integrity and doing what’s right is bound up in the imagery of this ancient form of seeking God’s guidance.

In the passage from Matthew above, Yeshua indicates that we should be “perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect.” The word for perfect here is the Greek word teleios, which means “having reached its end, complete, perfect.” I find that this admonition of Yeshua is simply carrying over this idea of integrity and doing what’s right according to God’s will into the eternal kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul corroborates this when he writes to the believers in Ephesus:

Ephesians 4:11-13 – And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

While this modern version provides a clear meaning of the passage, the KJV highlights an aspect of this maturity that can be obscured through some translations.

Ephesians 4:13 – Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

The “perfect man” is the telios man, the individual who is complete, who has reached the end or the goal of all God is wanting to accomplish within all individuals. The individual who is perfect acts with integrity in all things. Like the ancient breastplate of the high priest, the perfect individual shines with the “lights and perfections” of God’s will, and others can see and know the truth of God through observing their actions.

When we reach this level of maturity, then will be fulfilled within us the desire of God within his people.

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

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