Proverbs 28:6 “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”
Yesterday I had coffee with a dear brother who’s facing serious financial strain. As we talked he confessed that he’s considering doing a business deal that is, let’s say, less than honest. He knows that financially, it would turn a better profit and make life much easier.
As the conversation went on however, I could tell he knew it was wrong. I could also tell he felt trapped. He felt that if he would compromise just this time that he’d be able to do so much more for his family, and so much more for the Lord.
He even said, “if I do this, I could give a full 10% to the Lord, wouldn’t He want that?” I listened patiently and then gave him a simple challenge: don’t cash in your character. Nothing is worth more than your character.
We all face the temptation to compromise in order to get ahead. If we just tell a little lie, we can get out of big trouble. If we neglect a few details, our plan can pass through undetected. If we stop playing by the rules for just a season, we finally get over that hump. If we do a little wizardry with our accountant, we can line our pockets with a few needed pennies.
These temptations are not uncommon, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t unimposing. The path of compromise always promises to be a joyful ride, but it never is. We would do well to remember that it is always better to be poor and walk with integrity than to be rich and walk a crooked path. Nothing is more valuable than the integrity of our name.
Why is this so? Proverbs 28:6 simply says it’s “better.” I’d like to propose 3 reasons why it’s better.
- 1. Integrity is better than wicked wealth because we can enjoy what we do have more.
Living a lie is a hard thing to do. Knowing that you live in a house built with stolen money will haunt your conscience. Eating delicious meals at the cost of someone you’ve swindled will eventually make you sick. It’s an empty pursuit trying to enjoy awards you know you cheated to get. Sure there are temporary comforts that can be gained through compromise, but they will ultimately prove to be empty.
To be able to look at yourself in the mirror and have no regrets is a priceless possession. It is better to be poor and walk with your integrity than to be rich and walk in the crooked way.
- 2. Integrity is better than wicked wealth because we rightly represent Christ.
By walking in integrity, we rightly reflect Jesus to those around us. If we are Christians, we are walking billboards that tell about Christ. We proclaim what Jesus is like with every word we say, and every business deal we make. We must be very careful to not take the Lord’s name in vain by spreading lies about Him for a few pennies. Judas made this mistake, we should avoid his example at all costs.
To rightly represent Christ is a high honor that is worth more than any amount of money. It is better to be poor and represent Christ well than to be deceitfully rich and dishonor His glorious Name.
- 3. Integrity is better than wicked wealth because we will answer to God for how we live.
As I told my friend, he can’t do the shady business deal because one day He will have to stand before the Lord and give an account for everything he has done. I explained to him that the Lord would rather receive an offering of a penny from clean hands and a pure heart than a full 100% from hands coated with compromise. I told him that no matter how much comfort he gained by selling his character, he would sorely regret when he stood before the glorious God of heaven.
Jesus calls us to follow Him on the narrow road that leads to life. Each step on that path will be tested by calls to compromise. We must daily consider the last day and as J.C. Ryle once said, “Live as if you thought that Christ might come at any time.”
To stand before God on that last day with fewer regrets will be a treasure that will be incalculable. It is better to be poor and stand pure before God than to be rich and shutter with shame.
The good news of the Gospel is that Christ lived the perfect life that we crooked path walkers have not. We have all compromised, we have all cashed in our character. The good news is that Christ has perfect integrity, and that He laid down His life in the place of all those who would repent and believe in Him. If you have cashed in your character and become corrupted by compromise, cry out to Jesus and he will forgive you and clothe you with His perfect character.