While digging the foundation for a new church in Kingston, Jamaica, I learned a lesson about character I will not soon forget. Lacking the most in construction experience, I depended on the directions of my skilled co-laborers. After shoveling through several yards of ditches for the foundation in the sweltering tropical heat one afternoon, we finally started to pour the cement.
As I spread and packed the muddy mixture with a rake, a tiny twig fell from the bank and into the cement. Thinking nothing of it, I continued to spread the hardening substance and just patted the twig into the mix. The moment I did, our Italian crew chief shouted at me, “Hey, Pastor, get that twig out of there!” I obeyed the order but couldn’t understand all the fuss over something so small.
“Don’t you know?” the crew chief. “That ‘little twig’ would disrupt the integrity of this whole building.” When I asked what he meant, he said, “It would make the mixture impure and create a weak point in the foundation.”
“What harm would that do?” I asked.
“Plenty!” the chief returned. “Oh, it wouldn’t cause any noticeable problem right away, but in a year you’d see a hairline crack in the wall and, in a few years, the entire wall could collapse from it. All from that ‘little twig’ you allowed to fall into the mixture.”
Godly character involves keeping the “little twigs” out of the mix. It requires a larger soul and, just as there are things that help grow a soul, there are others that can cause it to wither, as well.
The nutrients that grow a soul are clear – grace, prayer, Bible study, exercising faith and forgiveness, walking faithfully through life’s struggles and challenges, fellowship with other believers, and keeping our eyes on Jesus and his example. The things that threaten a soul, however, include the many “little twigs” that can weaken and fragment us. And the “little twigs” are the character compromises we are so often tempted to make – the spiritual “shortcuts,” setbacks and shortcomings we allow to get into the mixture of our lives.
Our word integrity is actually derived from the Latin word integer. In English, integer is defined as “a whole number; a complete entity.” Therefore, the essence of integrity is wholeness, sameness, or oneness. Integrity, in a practical sense, includes genuinely being in private what you profess to be in public. A person of integrity is the same through and through. The “mix” is consistent.
Warren Wiersbe has said, “Two forces are at work in our world today: (1) God is putting things together, and (2) sin is tearing things apart. God wants to make integers; Satan wants to make fractions.”
Godly character is powerful. Integrity is one of the soul elements that authentically reflect Christ to those around us. They make Jesus real to others. Just think of it! Through our words, people may hear God’s voice; through our character, they just may get a glimpse of his face.
What do you need to keep out of the “mix” of your life?