I live in a world that has reversed this paradigm. Americans idolize the rich and spurn those who hold to their integrity. Sure, we hold them up in movies, but we are mindful that the actor who played that character of integrity often has no integrity to speak of and is paid exceptionally well for amusing the masses.
But God’s perspective is that integrity is more valuable. While integrity may cost opportunities to make money — and it often does — God pronounces it better than the riches that might have been gained by forsaking integrity. It is better to hold one’s integrity, no matter the cost, than to forsake it.
What is integrity? The word used in this proverb could mean integrity or completeness or fullness or innocence or simplicity. All of those work. Looked at through the lens of simplicity, simple things are precisely what they seem to be. So, too, a person of integrity. What you see is what you get. Seen through the lens of completeness, it is no wonder the poor man with integrity is better off than the rich, as being complete means he lacks nothing. It is not that he could not do with more finances to live a more comfortable life, but his inner life has all it needs. The rich are seldom thus. The infamous story of a wealthy man being asked how much money is enough and replying with “Just a little more than I have.” is indicative of the lack. There is something missing. There is no integrity.
The English word integrity carries the meaning of the ability to hold together. Buildings have integrity if their underlying structure is sound. The stronger and more sound that underlying structure, the greater its integrity. But a building with compromised integrity must, at a minimum, be repaired. More often, a building that lacks integrity is condemned to be torn down. Society understands that a building without integrity is a threat to everyone in it and near it. So, too, a person without integrity. Society seems to have forgotten that part.
Today; this morning who and what am I? Am I a man of integrity — simple, complete — or something less? If a man of integrity, where I stand in the socioeconomic structure is not important. I have the better. If I am not a man of integrity, I must address that and walk in integrity. And I should look for men of integrity to admire, rather than those generally held up for my approbation and accolades.