CORPORATE MAKEOVER SERMON SERIES
Influencing With Integrity
SEPTEMBER 20, 1998
I am not sure where it started. This mentality from our watered-down culture that says, what you do in private does not effect what you do in public. Or, that who you are in the darkness does not impact who you are in the light. The bold truth of the matter is, whether you find yourself in a copy room, boardroom, corner office or oval office, who you are when no one is looking is who you are. Every single day we have the opportunity to sway, impact and influence others with integrity. I have these opportunities and so do you. And they come down the pike in rapid-fire succession; those interchanges, those conversations, those situations with clients, co-workers, bosses and Boards of Directors. Integrity. That’s right, we have an opportunity to influence others with integrity.
The word integrity comes from the term integer, which means a whole number. Thus, if I integrate integrity into my life, I give a completeness to my character, I give a wholeness. Biblical integrity is integrating a multi-faceted faith into the recesses of our multi-faceted lives. Yet sadly, a lot of us are not giving a wholeness, giving a completeness of character. Instead we are just throwing around fractions. Here is a third. Here is a half. Here is a fourth. It is not like we show up at the office one day and decide to turn our backs on integrity. It happens slowly, rather methodically. We don’t just say, “Well, here is integrity. I am going to drop it out of my life.” It begins when we ask, “What is the right thing to do?” questions. Then after that we slowly segue into “What can I legally do?” And ultimately we say, “What can I get away with?” Don’t you see the progression? Don’t you see how it plays out? Suddenly we are doing things that are not true, that are not right, that do not line up and square with God’s word.
Integrity. I think it is no accident that the word integrity has the word grit right in the middle of it. It takes grit, it takes substance, it takes power to live this stuff out. And I am not going to lie to you. I am not going to broad brush this topic with a bunch of generalizations. I want to show you what you sign up for if you want to integrate integrity into your life. It will take everything you have, but I want to show you through this message that it is well worth it.
Enough of the introductory remarks. Let’s talk about the how. How do I integrate integrity into the recesses of my multifaceted life? Well, right up front we need to line up with God’s organizational chart. Are you lining up with His organizational chart, with His chain of command?
I talked to a close friend of mine awhile back and I was questioning him about his loyalty level. I asked, “How in the world did you work for a couple of decades for an organization that had a weak leadership structure? Why didn’t you just blow a fuse or go on tilt? Oftentimes you knew much more than the leadership did.” I will never forget what he said to me. “It is always best to discover God’s organizational chart and to put yourself beneath it. When you do that, things always go the best.” Today, my friend is working for one of the top organizations in his field in America. And I truly believe that he is where he is today because of the loyalty lessons that he learned years ago and because he got beneath God’s flow chart, His chain of command.
Everywhere we turn in this life we see God’s structure. We see this organizational chart. God has placed, for example, doctors in authority over their patients. He has placed attorneys in authority over their clients. He has placed coaches in authority over players, teachers in authority over students, pastors in authority over church members and so on. So if I am going to influence others with integrity, if I am serious about integrating this character quality into my life, I have got to understand God’s organizational chart. That is why the Bible boldly claims in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works…” The corporate world says show me before you tell me. Don’t just tell me. “….they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” That is what the Bible says about how we work and how we fit into this organizational structure.
In a couple of days I am going to have a physical, as I do regularly. When I walk into my doctor’s office, I am under his authority. I can ask him questions, I can get him to explain things but at the end of the day it is a trust issue. If I don’t trust him, I can go to another physician.
Let me give you a little hypothetical situation. What if you could walk down the typical hall of the typical office in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area? I am sure that at first glance everything would be looking good. On the surface it would be looking as calm as a Texas farm pond in August. But beneath the surface oftentimes there are dangerous treacherous currents, little cliques, little groups and people who get together in the break room, in offices, in cubicals and they pull out their firearms and assassinate their superior or their president or their manager. They do this with slanderous statements, spreading rumors, but yet when those people come walking down the aisle, they act friendly. They turn into Eddie Haskell.
What would happen if you discovered that you are in God’s organizational chart and that He put that person in front of you or over you for a specific reason? I don’t care if they are a Type A personality, or if they are choleric, or demanding, God put them there for a reason and you are going to respect their authority. So what would happen tomorrow morning if instead of pulling out your firearms you stood up for the structure. What if you respected and protected his or her position? What would happen? What if you put down the firearms, what would occur? I am not suggesting that every time you see your boss you give him a hug or a high five or carry their picture around in your wallet. I am saying to respect God’s chain of command.
Colossians 3:22 says, “Obey your earthly masters in everything and do it not only when their eye is on you to win their favor but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”
When I was in college, my father got me a job at a major corporation because he was close friends with the owner of the corporation. The firm did 400 or 500 million dollars of business a year. I was up there as some kind of gofer. I would just kind of hang out and run errands for people. I was right there by the CEO’s office. It was so comical. When he would come walking down the hall, I would see grown men sprint to their desks and act like they were working. They would tell him how great and wonderful he was. But when he was out of town on one of the corporate jets, the same people would kick back and read Sports Illustrated, hang around and tell jokes. I had to wonder if most of them really respected the organizational chart. How are you doing with your lineup?
The next way we can integrate integrity into our lives can best be explained with something that happened to me Thursday. That afternoon I finished a pretty intense weight workout at the health club where I have a membership. As I walked out the door, I was joined by one of my four-year-old twins, Landra. I had a tank top on and Landra looked at me and she began to feel my arm. She said, “Daddy, you are getting big. You are strong.” I was feeling pretty good. I thought all my work was paying off. Then she asked me, “Daddy, can you beat up Troy Aikman.” I answered, “Landra, no way.” Then she responded, “Well, get back in there and work harder.” If you want to influence others with integrity, yes, you have to get involved with God’s organizational chart but secondly you have got to build into your life a contagious work ethic. Throughout this series we have said that God is a God of work. We are made in His image. We are fashioned with unique abilities, aptitudes and concepts. We are to use those gifts to bring glory to God and also to influence others. In a real way, people are watching you and they are watching me. They are pressing their faces against the windows of our lives wanting to see integrity. They want to see if our behavior correlates with our beliefs. They are watching how we respond to God’s chain of command, how we respond to menial tasks. They want to see if we have a contagious work ethic. They want to see how we tackle jobs that don’t really make that much difference. What happens, for example, if you finish work three hours before you are to leave the office? Do you kick back and just join in conversation? Do you just hang around? Do you make personal calls, run personal errands? Or, do you say that you will work, be creative and find better ways to do your job.
A friend of mine used to work for a large company and he regularly and routinely would finish his tasks two hours before he was supposed to leave. You know what he told me he did? He taught himself a new skill so he could better do his job. I love when people describe the super stars. I am talking about the bona fide, big time athletes, the Michael Jordans, the Mickey Mantels, the Walter Paytons. The announcers always say that because of their contagious work ethic, they help those around them. They motivate their teammates to such a degree that it raises the level of their performance and they achieve much greater things than they ever thought possible. What could you do? What could I do? Who could you influence? Who could I influence? “OK, God, I want to build a contagious work ethic. I am going to tackle all tasks tenaciously.” Ultimately, if we are God followers, we work for Jesus.
I want to ask you for a second to close your eyes. This is just a quick thing. I want you to think about the person that you report to, male or female. A president, a CEO, a manager, a foreman, just think about that person for a second. Now quickly take their face off of their body and put the face of Christ there. You got it? Now look at me. What if you reported directly to Christ? What if you did this report for Christ? What if you close this deal for Christ? What if you are accountable to Him? Would that change the way that you do things? Would you say, “Oh, Man, I am going to do things with excellence now. I am going to really work because I am reporting to Jesus Himself. You wouldn’t believe who is in my office. Jesus” Well, if you know Him personally, that is whom you are responsible to. I don’t care if it is something that a person will never see. I don’t care if it is something private or in the darkness. We do everything ultimately for the Lord Himself. We can use our work ethic to influence others with integrity.
There is another thing that I want to talk about. Another way that we can influence others with integrity is to commit to truthful character. Ephesians 4:28 says, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer but must work, doing something useful with his hands.” There is a lot of stealing going on in our world today, especially as we begin to dissect this whole corporate makeover thing. There is lying, thievery, duplicity, a lot of stuff going on. Have you committed yourself to truthful character? Do you steal from the company time clock? Do you rip off office supplies for personal use? Do you make those long distance personal calls on the company cell phone? Do you pad expense accounts, take long, extended lunch breaks, personal errands on company time? What would happen if you committed to come clean? What would happen if you said to yourself that you were going to make it right, go to your superior, give them a check and say that you have been wrong? What if you added that you are going to integrate your multifaceted faith into every recess of your multifaceted life, that you will have your behavior and beliefs match one another?
Integrity starts with I. Are you ready to do that? It is not easy stuff. It is not for the weak-kneed. It is not for those who are just playing church. But it is well, well worth it. I love what the Bible uses when it describes work. Proverbs 6:6-8. “Go to the ant, you sluggard…” and we have no trouble going to the ant. Texas is the capital of the fire ant mound. “…. consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” You don’t see a big shot ant over another ant saying, “Come on, invade that picnic. Carry that crumb. Come on, let’s go. Move it. Move it. Move it.” Ants are just self-starters. They have a work ethic. They understand where they fit into the scheme of things. And they are contagious and the other ants see it.
The Bible talks about integrity too. In Proverbs 11:3 it says, “The integrity of the upright guides them but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Remember I said earlier that integrity comes from the word integer, a whole number, completeness in character. Yet most of us are throwing out fractions, we are living a life based on duplicity.
Before I go on to the good news, I want to talk to you about the cost. There can be a major cost. There can be a relational cost, an emotional cost, a spiritual cost. And get ready, hold onto your theater seats, there can be a financial cost if you say that you are going to integrate integrity into my life.
Case in point. Jack Eckerd, who owns Eckerd drug stores nationwide. Mr. Eckerd recently became a Christ follower. The next day, after making this step, he walked into one of his stores. He was looking around through the fresh eyes of a new believer. He saw something that startled him. On the magazine racks, he saw pornographic literature. In his store! He called an employee up and told him to get rid of every pornographic magazine on every magazine rack in all of the stores nationwide. He did not want to be a part of anything that ruins society and demeans women. In a couple of days they were gone, because Mr. Eckerd runs the show. A while later, a man asked him if he got rid of the pornographic magazines because he had become a Christian. Eckerd said that he looked at the guy as if he were stupid. “Yes, that’s why. Why else would I throw millions of dollars out the window? It is because I am a Christ follower.” There is a financial cost, oftentimes, to integrity.
You can get kind of hung up on the rung of the corporate ladder because you are integrating integrity. Your client might fire you because you are not going to color outside the ethical lines. You might get derailed off the fast tract.
Now let me talk to you about the benefits, about the upside. The upside just blows the stuff I described out of the water. One benefit of integrity is a clear conscience. Talk to someone who has a long track record of integrity, someone who has really lived the life. They will tell you that a clear conscience is something that money can’t buy. I love what co-author of THE POWER OF ETHICAL MANAGEMENT, Ken Blanchard said. “There is no pillow as soft as a clear conscience.” The freedom, the energy, the spirit of knowing that you don’t have to have a good memory to remember all the lies and half-truths. Maybe right now you have a dirty conscience. Think about those business dealings, those under-the-table things that you are involved in. Today you can leave this place clean and clear. I am telling you it is not worth it. I don’t care how much money you make in those gray areas.
I used to work with a young man who dealt in deep levels of deception. A gifted man, yet he build his life around lies. I watched his paranoia, how insomnia, and how the path that he chose totally destroyed his family and his future. The price is too high. But there is nothing like a clear conscience. That is a benefit of integrating integrity into the recesses of your life.
But there is another benefit. It will give me clear values. Frances Shaffer said it best. Shaffer said, “When a society no longer has absolutes, they then base everything on particulars. And when they base everything on particulars, the result is chaos.” What a word about our culture today. Our government, chaos. Our public schools, chaos. Crime rate, chaos. Drug abuse, chaos. Sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, lesbianism, chaos. Why? We are rudderless. We don’t have any absolutes any more. We have taken the Bible and moved it away. We say, “Hey whatever is right for you. There is no right, no wrong. You decide. It is up to you. If it feels good for you, do it. What you do in the shadows does not effect who you are.” Give me a break. That is not what the Bible says. God says that His way is the way. He wants us to have clear values.
I talk to people all the time to people who say that they want to impact their children. The want their children to catch their values. But what happens when your children see you ripping off office supplies from your corporation and using them for personal business. They say, “OK, I get it. The deal is, don’t get caught. It is cool to rip somebody off, just don’t get caught.” I heard a story the other day that kind of made me laugh. A teacher had to have a conference with the father of one of her students. The father walked into her office and sat down. The teacher said, “Sir, I don’t know what we are going to do with Johnny. Johnny is stealing school supplies.” And the father just got hacked off. He said, “I cannot believe that. I apologize. My son, Johnny, knows that I can get him anything he wants from the office. Any kind of school supplies, I can get them.”
What happens when you are talking on the phone and your children hear the conversation? And don’t think that your children aren’t smart. How in the world did my four-year-old know about Troy Aikman? Say maybe the boss is pressing you because the project is late. Instead of coming clean and telling the truth, you begin to kind of phony up, to kind of twist the truth, to tell a little white lie. The kids then say, “I get it, when your back is against the wall, you just lie and story tell and everything will be OK.” I will say it one more time. Values are more caught than taught. Do you have clear values? That is a benefit of integrity.
There is one more benefit. Clear conscience, clear values and also clear direction. Do you realize that we have an opportunity right now to revolutionize the Dallas/Ft. Worth area with our integrity? You have the opportunity and so do I. Integrity begins with you and you and you and you. What would happen, I ask you, if six or seven thousand people who will come through the doors of Fellowship Church this weekend, what would happen if all of us said that we were going to make the macro decision to choose integrity, to live the life. Because if we make the macro decision here, then when the micro choices come our way, we will have already made the big decision and it is easier to live a life of integrity. We will have clear direction. We can direct our co-workers. We can direct our children. And we can direct this entire community. You may be saying, “Come on, Ed. This entire community?” Remember Jack Eckerd. The year that he removed pornography off of the magazine racks of his stores, other drug stores heard about it. It influenced them. And because of Jack Eckerd’s stand for integrity 15,000 drug stores removed pornography off their magazine rack that same year. A costly decision, from one perspective, had a huge, huge payback from the eternal perspective.
So what can you do in your corner of the world? What can I do? People are pressing their faces against the window of your life, trying to see if your behavior and your beliefs match. Isn’t it time that we said, “OK, I am going to integrate integrity into my life so people can see my firm beliefs.”