Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich. Proverbs 28:6 NASB
There is a commercial on TV right now that shows some young men playing in a championship basketball game. There are a few seconds left and the trailing team throws a pass away all but assuring victory for the other team. But the kid who was guarding the player tells the ref, “Sorry, you missed it. I touched the ball before it went out. It should be their ball.”
It is a great commercial, and really speaks to integrity. Some have said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
Generally speaking I think most people act with integrity, at least when it comes to public matters. We wouldn’t knowingly cheat a friend. We don’t take what doesn’t belong to us. We generally try to keep our word.
There are other areas where cheating just a little may be more tempting.
It’s that time of year, at least in the US, where many of us are preparing our income tax returns. Not an activity that most of us look forward to but it is something everyone has to do.
Most people feel they are taxed too much and begrudge what they have to pay. The government takes in hundreds of billions of dollars anyway so if I “cut a few corners” it won’t really matter.
Perhaps some part of your income comes in cash. Under report that cash a little and no one will never know. Inflate what I give just a little bit. Exaggerate those business expenses a little. Hey, everyone does it right?
An issue of integrity
It is important to show honesty and integrity in all areas of our lives. Not just in areas where we agree, but in areas that hurt a little too. That includes filling out that tax form.
It’s the law
Sure, perhaps no one will ever know if you under report that cash . The problem is, it’s illegal. You don’t want to be taking chances with the IRS. They have the power to make your life miserable if they have reason to believe you have been dishonest on your return.
It isn’t worth it
Second, you probably aren’t really saving that much money anyway. Is your integrity worth the few dollars you save?
The government provides many programs that make our lives much better. Our military risks their lives to provide us the freedom we enjoy. We drive on a good road system, protected by safety forces that give us a comfortable commute. There are systems in place to make sure that the food we eat and the medicines we take are safe. I could go on and on with benefits we receive. Do I agree with everything our government does? No of course not. I think there is much waste and much room for improvement. That does not change the fact though that our government does much to make my life easier and I have a duty to support that.
Our integrity matters
Lastly, it is a matter of integrity. The writer of Proverbs states many times and in many ways the importance of honesty and integrity. In chapter 28 he says it would be better to be poor and have our integrity than gain riches by dishonest means. Taxes are just one way that we can be tempted to compromise our integrity. The bottom line though is even if no one ever found out about our little bit of “fancy accounting”, God sees it. I firmly believe that God will honor those that He sees walking in integrity.
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully. Psalms 24:3-4 NASB