The dictionary defines ‘integrity’ as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” I’ve always heard it defined as “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” In all of Scripture, perhaps the greatest example of integrity is found in the person of Joseph in Genesis 39.
Please read Genesis 39:7-10.
We can all agree that a slave resisting the seduction of his master’s wife is a good indicator of “having strong moral principles.” He didn’t have to resist. No one else would have known. But Joseph did the right thing, even when no one is looking. That’s integrity.
In reading this passage, I noticed three reasons that Joseph gives for having integrity. As we look at them, perhaps they may motivate you to practice integrity the next time you think you can get away with doing evil because no one else is looking.
Remember your Blessings. When Potiphar’s wife first sets her eyes on Joseph, he refuses her advances. Why? He has a whole host of reasons why, and he lists them for her: “my master doesn’t worry about anything in the house because of me; he has put everything that he has in my charge; I am in complete control of everything except for my master’s wife.” Joseph counts blessing after blessing and uses them as reasons not to commit this crime. Even as a slave who was wrongly sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph focuses more on his blessings than on his negative circumstances. When we focus on our blessings, we are more motivated to serve our Lord by doing right.
Recognize that All Sin is Against God. After counting his blessings, Joseph tells Potiphar’s wife “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” He doesn’t ask, “How could I sin against my master,” but “how could I sin against God.” All sin is an affront to God. Even when no one else is looking, God is always looking. God sees everything, so there’s no point in thinking that we can get away with anything. We practice integrity because we do everything for our Lord, who sees all that we do.
Repetition of Resistance. We are told that Potiphar’s wife tried to entice Joseph “day after day.” She made a habit of trying to seduce him, but he also made a habit of resisting her seduction. When we practice integrity regularly, it makes it easier to practice integrity. If we make it a habit to resist temptation, then it becomes easier to resist that temptation. Each of us are making habits every day; make an effort to ensure that the habits you are practicing are good godly habits that will help you to follow Him in the future.
Maybe if we follow Joseph’s example by remembering our blessings, recognizing that all sin is sin against God, and repeatedly resisting temptation, then we too will practice having the kind of integrity that Joseph practiced. No matter who is watching or not watching, we will live lives of high moral character and always do what is right.