Integrity without corruption

A life based on sound doctrine is a life of integrity.

Titus 2:1, 7-8 – But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. … in all things make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.

As the apostle Paul was writing to Titus as to how to manage the administration of the local congregation, among the admonitions for various groups (older men and women, younger men and women) Paul drops this specific direction for Titus. In essence, Paul is saying that Titus’ teaching should be based on truth and should line up with what he does. His life and works should be a pattern for others to follow.

Almost every English translation says that his teaching should be represented by integrity; here are a few examples:

New Living Translation

And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.

English Standard Version

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

Berean Study Bible

In everything, show yourself to be an example by doing good works. In your teaching show integrity, dignity,

The KJV and some of the literal versions use a different word here instead of integrity.

King James Bible

In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,Literal

Standard Version

Concerning all things, present yourself [as] a pattern of good works—in the teaching [with] uncorruptedness, dignity,

Young’s Literal Translation

concerning all things thyself showing a pattern of good works; in the teaching uncorruptedness, gravity, incorruptibility,

It is interesting to me to see how integrity is equated with non-corruption, and when this idea is dwelt on for few moments, this really seems to make sense.

When we say someone is corrupt, they are typically not examples of integrity, but of its opposite. They would lie, cheat, steal, and cover up errors to make sure they maintain their position or reputation. This is the exact opposite of what Paul is instructing Titus.

By contrast, to be uncorrupted in sound doctrine is to have purity of understanding and wisdom which is practical and can be modeled for others. Someone who is uncorrupted would be someone who models the truth, works hard, gives generously, and is transparent in their dealings with others.

Uncorruptedness or incorruption is also tied to another concept in the Bible: immortality. Incorruption is a term meaning something never degrades in quality or existence. That is what the truth is: incorruptible.

The other benefit to living uncorrupted with integrity is that a life that is lived in harmony with the sound doctrine of truth is in itself its own answer to potential critics.

Titus 2:8 – Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.

When we live our lives according to the truth of sound doctrine, we faithfully carry on the heritage that has been passed to us to the next generation. This is how the truth of God’s word continues to grow and manifest itself in every successive age of time.


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Authentic forgiveness has the ability to influence others to do the same

The most impactful messages are those that are conveyed with consistency and authenticity by those who are presenting them.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

Luke 23:34

One of the main reasons that Yeshua’s teachings have been so influential in the centuries and millennia is not just because of the wisdom, logic, and truth of what he taught, but because he actually demonstrated how to apply what he implored others to do.

As was the case in the instance of his crucifixion at the hands of his oppressors, he didn’t just preach forgiveness of enemies, he actually lived it out, praying for God to forgive those who had no intent toward him except extreme harm.

A message can have impact because it makes sense, or because it is an accepted tradition, or it may be a requirement of an institution or governing authority. However, the most impactful messages are those that are conveyed with consistency and authenticity by those who are presenting them.

By contrast, in our culture today, the opposite happens so frequently that there is the ironic statement expressed by the saying, ” Do what I say, not what I do.” This is the epitome of sad weakness in which one may have an understanding of what the right thing may be in a given situation, but they not have the strength or fortitude to carry out even their own advice. Hypocrisy is powerless.

But wisdom with consistent action makes a difference, especially with hard teachings like those about forgiveness. Anyone can say people should be forgiving of those who are intent on harm, but to do so in the most extreme of circumstances demonstrates authenticity that has power to change lives.

This is corroborated in the lives of his disciples, most visibly in the noble act of Stephen, when he faced the same type of hostility of those who would see him dead for his speaking of the truth.

Being called before the court to defend his beliefs, Stephen provides a protracted description of God’s favor with Israel, and then accuses the religious leaders of his day of forsaking everything they should have been practicing. In boldly speaking this truth, the situation then proceeded toward its inevitable conclusion.

[Stephen said,] “You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.” … When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him. … They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. … He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ” And after saying this, he died.

Acts 7:53-54, 57-58, 60

Stephen was so captivated with the powerful example of his Lord in forgiving his enemies that, thrust into a similar circumstance, he responded in the same way. His actions were consistent with his recognition of the truth related by his Master, and he was able to respond with the same level of demonstrable conviction. His righteous actions were so powerful they still influence and challenge us to this day.

Based on these demonstrations of genuine forgiveness of enemies by both Yeshua and Stephen, can we somehow find it within ourselves to forgive others with this same level of authenticity, even though we may not be faced with the extreme condition of impending death?

If this is the ultimate level of authenticity demanded of every disciple of Yeshua, then forgiving those who have wronged us in some minor detail seems much less daunting. In so doing, we have an opportunity to provide an authentic response that can influence others to do the same.

How to change the world, or at least your corner of it

Integrity has the ability to influence others through maintaining a set of internal commitments that will not be shaken under any circumstance.

During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. … Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. … The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. … But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.

Daniel 1:1, 3, 5, 8

One of our admonitions from Yeshua is to demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands (Matt. 5:20). Sometimes these external commands take the form of direct instruction, and sometimes these “commands” come in the form of allowances or tolerations of our culture that would violate the purity of our relationship with God. We must resist both forms of this type of cultural influence.

In the case of Daniel and his friends, they were removed from their home and brought to a completely different culture under a new political regime. Even though they were favored within this new dynamic, Daniel and his friends, in their integrity, resolved not to be negatively influenced by this turn of events, and to remain loyal to God.

The Hebrew culture that Daniel had been raised in had very specific dietary requirements in order to maintain faithfulness to the Torah, or instruction, of God for his people. Given the “freedom” to eat all types of foods and meats in his new environment, Daniel was committed to remain faithful to those requirements at any cost.

Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.” Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff … “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. … At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king.

Daniel 1:9-12, 15

Daniel and his friends were able to demonstrate to this chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s staff that God was able to meet their needs, even if it meant going against the cultural “mandate” of royal rations.

Integrity has this ability to influence others through maintaining a set of internal commitments that will not be shaken under any circumstance. This is a highly valued commodity among all people because it is rarely seen in common practice.

It is our obligation as believers to be so thoroughly committed to our faith that through our integrity we become the influencers of those around us, rather than allowing them to influence us.