Have you ever wondered what a pie chart of your time would look like? What percentage of your time is devoted to work? To family commitments? To all the things you have to do: pay the bills, mow the lawn, help chauffeur the kids around, spend time with your spouse and children? These activities make up the big sections of the pie chart. The smaller slivers of the chart indicate room that is left for exercise, recreation, volunteering, time with your friends, and maybe a few spiritual activities. We live complicated lives that place in front of us a legion of demands every day and the demands are not just for our time. No, what they are demanding is a larger portion of our hearts. Here is the essence of the integrity problem: We are people with divided hearts. A large portion of our hearts is dedicated to being successful at work, while another large chunk is dedicated to being successful in relationships. Still another part of the heart would really like to be a successful follower of Jesus, to nurture the life of the Spirit, and to be a student of the Bible. If only we had room in our hearts.
The problems we have are problems of integration and, therefore, we have an integrity problem. Even the word integrity is derived from integration. Only when one’s life is integrated does it have integrity.
The Oxford English Dictionary offers two definitions for integrity. The first refers to that which is undivided, unbroken, unmixed, and structurally pure. It is in this sense that we speak of a bridge as having “structural integrity.” It stands because its supports are solid, pure, and sound. The second definition refers to one who possesses sound moral virtue.
We often assume that only the second definition applies to people, but actually both do. We cannot be morally virtuous if we are divided, mixed, or compartmentalized.
So integrity doesn;t just mean that we avoid hypocrisy. It means that we have found an integrating virtue to our hearts. In the words of Soren Kierkegaard, “To have a pure heart means to will one thing.”
According to the story of Ananias and Sapphira (in Acts 5:1-11), integrity means that we are no longer lying to God, telling him in a church setting that he is Lord, while at the same time holding back a part of our hearts in our daily living.
Peter makes it clear that it wasn’t a sin for them to keep a portion of the proceeds from the sale. After all, the field had been theirs, and they were free to give whatever percentage of the profit they wanted to give. The sin was claiming to be people they were not, in pretending that appearances were enough.
We live in a society that promotes and believes that “image is everything.” Substance and reality don’t matter. Change the outside and it doesn’t matter what’s on the inside. But we cannot change the inside by changing the outside. Neither do we become righteous by merely looking righteous. Rather, we become righteous from the inside out, by confessing that we are not right, that our hearts are divided and mixed, and that we are afraid to place all of life in God’s hands.
Martin Luther’s right-hand man throughout the Reformation was Philip Melanchthon. Philip kept coming to Luther, confessing that he could not rid his life of a particular sin. Luther would give him good counsel, pray with him, and then send him back. Before long they had the same conversation about the same sin. Again Luther ministered to him and sent him back. Philip returned yet another time, still burdened by this sin. Finally in a moment of exasperation, Luther exclaimed, “Philip, the gospel is about Jesus Christ. You don’t fight sin by wrestling with the devil, but by turning to the Savior.”
The gospel does not require us to muster up the integrity to be right; no, it requires us merely to confess that not a single part of our divided hearts is right. When, however, we tell the truth about this, we discover the deeper truth of the Holy Spirit’s power to transform our fears into faith, as we watch him move into every corner of the heart.
We are offered no evidence that Ananias and Sapphira thought they were lying to God. From all appearances they thought they were lying to the compartment of life called the church. But God has never accepted our allegiance to the compartmentalization of life. God is Lord over all of our hearts, which means that every lie we tell is told to God.
The problem isn’t knowing what we ought to do; the problem isn’t even wanting to do what we ought to do. The problem is taking the risk in doing it.
Hank Lamb is the Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church, Richardson, TX.