THE SERVANT GENERAL
One of the most important aspects of servant leadership is
integrity. What is integrity? It is a word often used, but
superficially understood, and not so much appreciated in its
depth of meaning.
The dictionary defines it as “uprightness of character.”
Another definition is “firm adherence to a code especially
moral or artistic values. Synonyms given are probity, incorruptibility
I would offer my own definition. Integrity is living the truth
in word, thought and deed.
For us to better appreciate the meaning of integrity, let
me give some instances that point to a lack of it. Here I
do not speak of what is obvious—such as dishonesty,
corruption or moral failures. Rather, these are instances
that are committed even by supposedly renewed and God-loving
Christians, who are serving Him and the Church.
Lack of Integrity
Lying is a sin. In fact, since Satan is “the father
of lies” (Jn 8:44), one who is a liar exchanges his
sonship under the Father for that of Satan. But what is more
diabolical is deliberately speaking half-truths. This, in
a way, is worse than an outright lie, because it manipulates
the truth, twisting it to one’s own ends. Because it
is based on a truth, and on the surface might seem like the
truth, it becomes more deceptive, and can lead many people
Let me give an example. There was a person who had attacked
and betrayed me who suddenly found himself sitting in a plane
right beside me. Throughout the 4-hour flight, he slept (or
pretended to be asleep), not eating nor taking a comfort break.
When the plane landed, he bolted out of his seat and closeted
himself in the toilet, until all had disembarked from the
plane. It was obvious that he did not want to speak to me,
or felt ashamed to do so. Later, he made two claims that were
half-truths. One, he said I was seated beside him for 4 hours
but did not speak to him! Two, to another audience, he said
it was evidence of our friendship and continuing acquaintance
that we were even seated together in the plane.
On both occasions, he told the truth, that we were seated
together and that I did not speak to him (not wanting to bother
him if he was truly tired, I was waiting for him to wake so
we could talk). But on both occasions, he was lying, giving
a false impression, deliberately twisting the reality, misleading
Truth is of God, as Jesus himself is the truth (Jn 14:6a).
On the other hand, lies are of the devil, who “is a
liar” (Jn 8:44). To lie is already a grave sin. To manipulate
or use the truth in order to lie is even graver.
yes but doing no
Have you ever said yes to something but then did not follow
through and did not do what had been agreed on? Now I am not
talking about circumstances changing from the time you said
yes to the time when you were about to act on it. In such
a case, we simply go back to the person we had an agreement
with, and work it out.
What makes it a failure in integrity?
If you were just saying yes, but in your heart and mind
you had no intention of doing what was agreed on.
If you were just saying yes in order to get the discussion
over with, to set aside all opposition, or to put closure
to a contentious situation.
If you were just saying yes in order to lull the opposition
to a false sense of acceptance, but with the intent to
ultimately get your own way.
If you might have had the intention to act, but later
decided to renege, because this was to your personal advantage.
If you ignore or maneuver your way out of what was agreed.
If you put your own interpretation on what was agreed
and carry on accordingly, knowing that it is different
from the mind of the one with whom you agreed.
Saying yes but not following through is worse than just saying
no. With the latter, at least the other party knows how you
stand. With the former, the other party is deluded into thinking
all is well when all is not. And of course, it adversely affects
how things move forward, as seemingly agreed on by the parties.
Jesus told the parable of the two sons (Mt 21:28-31a). The
first said no but then changed his mind and did what his father
asked him. The second said yes but did not go. The first did
the father’s will but the second did not. Now consider
this: if the first son had not changed his mind, then he too
would not have done his father’s will. But the posture
of the second son would still have been worse, since he said
yes but reneged, since he in effect deceived his father, since
by his yes his father was not able to decide on an alternative
so the work would be done. The second son failed in integrity.
This is about being double-faced or hiding behind a mask.
It is saying one thing and meaning another. It is putting
up false appearances. It is living a lie.
Some examples of this are:
Acting piously while deliberately living sinfully. This
is not to speak about the sins that we all commit from
time to time, even as we might not want to.
Extolling people while thinking ill of them or cursing
them under your breath. This does not refer to the courtesy
and respect that we ought to accord to people, because
of their inherent dignity as children of God, even if
we do not get along with them. We should still be nice
to people we have problems with.
Encouraging people to Christian generosity while living
Embracing and patting people on the back while planting
a knife on their backs.
Another word for being plastic is hypocrisy. It is not only
pretending to be what one is not, but it is worse than that.
It is outright deception.
Jesus severely condemned the Pharisees and scribes for their
hypocrisy (Lk 11:39ff). This was especially so because they
were teachers of the law and ought to have known better. Where
much is given, much is expected. Thus servant leaders are
called to the highest order of integrity.
The opposite of being plastic is being authentic. So say what
you mean, and mean what you say. Live in the light and truth
of God’s ways.
agenda, not the Lord’s
We are the Lord’s servants. We serve His agenda. One
who looks to a personal or hidden agenda is one who lacks
what ways does one serve his own agenda?
Seeking power or position, or looking to prestige or pay,
in doing Christian service.
Wanting to be recognized or rewarded for one’s service,
and feeling resentful when this does not happen.
Making decisions not for the good of the body but to consolidate
one’s position or to build turf.
Stealing money from God. This includes outright theft
as well as improper handling of tithes and donations for
Spending community funds lavishly for one’s own
comfort for mission (travel, accommodation, mission transport,
Maligning others in order to promote one’s cause.
This is especially grave when there is no truth to what
is being said.
Having a political agenda in helping the poor.
Jesus has already instructed us how we are to serve Him. First
we follow Him by denying ourselves and taking up our cross
daily (Lk 9:23). Then, when we go on mission, we are to be
“lean and mean,” taking nothing unnecessary and
relying on the generosity of those we serve (Mt 10:9-11),
being detached and completely reliant on God (Lk 9:3). This
is God’s agenda, even for those wonderful souls who
respond to His call to service. This is how God wants mission
and Christian work to be done. We cannot insist on our own
way of doing things. And worse, doing things our own way while
proclaiming that we allegedly are doing it for God.
Judas had his own agenda in following Jesus. Though he might
have genuinely been looking for the messiah, he was also a
thief, helping himself to the money contributed for Jesus’
mission (Jn 12:6). He compounded this sin by feigning righteousness
and love for the poor, complaining about the waste of costly
perfumed oil used to anoint the feet of Jesus (Jn 12:3-5).
Judas betrayed Jesus, accepting money from the chief priests
(Lk 22:3-6). When Jesus spoke about his coming betrayal, Judas
even feigned innocence (Mt 26:21-25). This again compounded
his failure in integrity.
Be forewarned. When we fail in integrity, sin will pile upon
sin. We will get deeper into the hole. When we have our own
agenda, but hidden within the context of our serving the Lord,
we will continually be lying, dishing half-truths, covering
up, giving disinformation. We will find ourselves in a spiral
of deceit and deception that inevitably leads to death.
To live in integrity is to avoid the actions that rob us of
our integrity, such as stated above. However, integrity is
not just about avoidance, but is about compliance. It is complying
with the way of God for us.
Integrity relates to the word integral, which denotes a situation
of being unimpaired, or wholeness, of soundness, of being
undivided. This is how God would have us.
Unimpaired by sin.
sound according to God’s design.
in love for and loyalty to God.
In the end, integrity is all about morality, living according
to the truth of God and His ways. In the end, integrity is
all about righteousness and holiness. Such is the way of God;
such is the way to God.
It is being preserved in honesty and virtue (Ps 25:21a).
is walking without blame (Ps 26:1a).
is the way by which we can look to God’s support
and being allowed in His presence forever (Ps 41:13).
is the only way we can continue to serve God (Ps 101:6b).
It is the way by which we can assure happiness for our
children (Prv 20:7).
Integrity has to do with our relationship with God, and therefore,
also with our relationship with each other, especially within
the context of community. Living the truth of God’s
ways and His call to us as community, integrity is essential
for the proper functioning of the body.
It is what truly makes us brethren, open and loyal to
It is what enables one to be a true and valuable team
player, one in our common vision and mission.
is what makes one trustworthy, to whom others can entrust
their very lives.
It is what enables us to be unique individuals with unique
gifts, but who can be formed into one body that God can
truly use for His purposes.
It is what supports and strengthens one’s faithfulness
to covenant and the way of life God has given us.
Eliphaz the Temanite said to Job: “Is not your piety
a source of confidence, and your integrity of life your hope?”
(Jb 4:6). The same is asked of us.
us realize that integrity of the highest order is the call
to all Christians, but especially to servant leaders.
Let us affirm our commitment to the kind of life God desires
for us, so we can look forward with hope, trusting only in
follow the way of integrity;
I act with integrity of heart”
bless you all.
February 10, 2009
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