The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - Integrity



The Ultimate Virtue


The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

Proverbs 10:9


The dictionary uses words such as whole and complete to describe what integrity means. To borrow a modern expression, a man with integrity “has his act together.” There are no loose ends that threaten his reputation.

Recently I ran across a full-page ad for an interna­tional relief organization. The picture shows a young child-perhaps from Central America or possibly Asia- writing at her desk. The ad copy contains the following sentence: “Integrity. It’s as simple as being what you say you are.” That strikes me as an excellent definition of in­tegrity. It means being what you say you are-all the time and in every situation.

To be called a man of integrity is the highest possible compliment. Several years ago my older brother took me to visit a cemetery outside Florence, Alabama, near the remains of an antebellum mansion called Forks of Cy­press. The mansion was built in the 1820s by James Jackson, an early settler of northwest Alabama. My brother and I walked among the ruins of the mansion and then crossed the country road into the dense forest on the other side. After a quarter mile we found the Jack­son family cemetery. There is no sign marking the spot, only a five-foot-high stone wall surrounding about fifty graves. Inside we found a tall marker over James Jackson’s grave, with a long inscription extolling his virtues, which were many.

 I walked along, my eyes fastened on the marker for one of his sons, William Moore Jackson. There was his name, the dates 1824-1891, and this simple five-word epitaph: “A man of unquestioned integrity.”

Five words to sum up an entire life. Sixty-plus years distilled into five words. But, oh, what truth they tell.

“A man of unquestioned integrity.” I cannot think of a better tribute. Then the thought came: What will they put on my tombstone?

At a recent leadership retreat, the speaker hammered away at one point: A ministry with integrity will stand the test of time. Everything else fades away-fads come and go, glitz will attract people but it won’t hold them, good programs lose their appeal, new buildings grow old, pas­tors stay for a while and then leave. But integrity never goes out of style. If you have it, people trust you; if you don’t, they don’t. And if you lose their trust, it’s hard to get it back.

We hear a lot these days about family values and the need to rediscover virtue in American society. The basic building blocks of virtue are actually very simple. We’ve known them all along:

Honesty, perseverance, faithfulness, determination, kind­ness, loyalty, self-control.

We’ve known these truths since the beginning of time. The problem isn’t in the knowing; it’s in the doing.

The mind wanders back to a forgotten tombstone and to those five simple words: “A man of unquestioned integrity.” The more you think about it, the greater it seems. Five words aren’t much to sum up a life of sixty-seven years, but those five will do nicely. In fact, you could do much worse.

I’m not sure what anyone will write on my tomb­stone. But I wouldn’t mind if someone felt I deserved those five words.


Lord, help me to live in such a way that integrity will be one of the first things people think of when they think of me. Amen.


What is your personal definition of integrity? How well do you live up to your own definition?

What would you like to have put on your tombstone as a summary of your life?

Latest blog posts

Good Words for Today: May 31
Sunday, May 31


The Anchor Project
Explaining the Gospel in “Walmart English”

Anchor is a “gospel book” that explains the Good News in a simple and persuasive manner. Read the latest on “The Anchor Project” and how you can be support our work.

Read More
Keep Believing China
Partnering with Chinese pastors and churches

We want to join together with pastors and Christian workers to equip the church in China, broadcasting translated sermons, providing ministry resources for Christians and pastors in China.

Read More

Weekly sermon email
Subscribe for free

Subscribe to the weekly sermon from Keep Believing Ministries. Sign up for our emails and use it to grow in your faith as well as to encourage others.


KBM Podcasts
Weekly audio sermons

Welcome to Keep Believing Ministries’ audio/podcast library. Listen to or download a digital audio version of one of these messages or receive them via our podcast and feed.

Read More

Ebook: Lord of Glory

The Bible contains many names of Christ. His names tell us who he is. His names tell us why he came. His names tell us how he can help us. His names tell us why we worship him. In this devotional series you'll learn of these varied and meaning behind the names, titles and descriptions of Christ.

“Equipping and encouraging people to keep believing in Jesus”

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”