- Integrity reveals our value system
- Fear losing the closeness of his presence more than the fear of missing out, or the displeasure of those living according to the post-Christian culture and value system
“I like doing business with people of faith who are entrepreneurs because they are generally honest and possess integrity. I admire the fact that they work towards a higher calling, other than simply laying up treasures upon this earth, and, by being entrepreneurs, follow the Bible’s advice to ‘be fruitful, and multiply’ “.
Luke Johnson, Chairman, Risk Capital Partners
“The Lord expects you to be fair in every business deal,
for he is the one who sets the standards for righteousness.
Kings and leaders despise wrongdoing,
for the true authority to rule and reign
is built on a foundation of righteousness.
Kings and leaders love to hear godly counsel,
and they love those who tell them the truth.”
Proverbs 16 v 11-13 TPT
In an enlightening report authored by Edentree Investment Management Ltd1, it is reported that at the time of the publication in 2015, the amount of money wasted through corporate misconduct was estimated to amount to $150bn over the previous five years. At that time, they say by way of illustration, that the consumer goods giant Unilever could be bought for this amount, or McDonalds, or 120 Wembley stadia could be built. It is chilling to realise that this loss is down to a failure of corporate business ethics. The report lists many fundamental behaviours and issues that constitute unethical practices. Practices such as payment protection insurance (PPI) in the UK, where such insurance had been applied to loans and credit card borrowing without the borrower’s express permission are more obvious, but other types of mis-selling and unethical practices have been the cause of substantial fines and repayment orders made in favour of customers. Unfortunately, I’m sure that we can remember high profile leaders in many walks of life who have been exposed for their lack of integrity. In some instances, these have caused a business or corporation, or a church or charity etc to suffer great harm, and for some to fail completely.
Higginson and Robertshaw2 note:
Without integrity, entrepreneurs can easily go haywire. Qualities such as enthusiasm, energy, creativity, innovation and a willingness to take risks are all very well, but they can be harnessed to evil ends. If entrepreneurs are to be godly people who contribute to the good of society, they need integrity.
Acting with integrity at all times requires wisdom and courage
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and the province of Achaia, he set out his integrity as an Apostle:
Now this is our boast: our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 2 Corinthians 1v12 (NIVUK)
Paul boasts that he acted with integrity in the world and in the church! There was no ‘secular/sacred divide’ in his dealings, and no hidden agenda. He had the joy of keeping a clear conscience.
In my own experience, acting with integrity at all times in business practices requires wisdom and courage. Recognising the more obvious unethical practices is relatively easy. They are within the common set of good business practices. Sometimes the ethical/unethical balance is less obvious, and it is easier to persuade yourself, and argue in the organisation, that ‘this is simply the way that business has to be done in this sector, or in this country’. It’s here that we need to ‘turn up the magnification’ of our integrity focus, making sure that we’re walking closely with Jesus, and being filled with Holy Spirit.
We must at all times act within the law(s) of the country, state or domain in which we operate. At the very least, if we act illegally, we are not displaying integrity, and we must with a humble heart before God re-examine our value system. There have been recent examples of corporate enterprises paying ‘bungs’ to key personnel or agents in other corporates, or percentages of contract values being agreed to win approval for contracts. I have talked with country leads in missionary organisations concerning the issue of getting goods through customs in some countries where the commonly accepted practice is to pay a bribe to ‘ease its passage through the system’. (Their practice was to refuse to pay but to choose to pray and have faith that our supernatural God would overcome human practices designed to benefit others through evil intent – surely a great example of praying for heaven’s will to be done on earth)!
Higginson and Robertshaw comment:
“the main reason the Bible condemns bribes is because they result in a perversion of judgment. The lure of personal gain sways decisions that should be made on impartial grounds. Bribery violates standards of public service. It is a betrayal of trust.” 2
This is a telling observation that speaks to the heart of the issue and brings us back to the matter of judgment and trust. I believe that the Kingdom entrepreneur needs to form and keep a well-developed conscience as well as the ability to step back to examine what’s actually at stake.
Integrity reveals a value system
We might wonder why integrity is such a foundational issue for the follower of Jesus. In a helpful insight, Richard Higginson, theological educator, concludes 3 that:
“You may wonder why integrity should be the moral virtue emphasised above others. The Bible, after all, has more to say about love and justice than integrity. In ethics and excellence, American author Robert Solomon gives a persuasive answer: ‘integrity is not so much a virtue itself as it is a complex of virtues, the virtues working together to form a coherent character, an identifiable and trustworthy personality.’ Integrity suggests, logically enough, a life that is well integrated. There is a coherence between the different parts. The value system professed is adhered to in all areas of life, public and private.”
So, integrity, it seems, reveals a value system that forms a coherent character and trustworthy personality. It is not a single value in itself. Integrity encompasses everything that we do and say, no matter in what environment we are placed. Whether it’s personal integrity before God, the nearest and dearest people to us, in our wider community of friends and associates, or as we lead our enterprise, the same standard of integrity is to be applied. We cannot have different standards of integrity for different environments; that reveals a personal value system that lacks authenticity.
What the Bible says about the need for and benefit of walking in integrity is a great starting point, and Proverbs hits pretty hard!
Integrity will lead you to success and happiness,
but treachery will destroy your dreams.
Proverbs 11v3 TPT
The Lord expects you to be fair in every business deal,
for he is the one who sets the standards for righteousness.
Proverbs 16v11 TPT
Good leadership is built on love and truth, for kindness and integrity
are what keep leaders in their position of trust.
Proverbs 20v28 TPT
The Lord loves those whose hearts are holy,
and he is the friend of those whose ways are pure.
Proverbs 22v11 TPT
Repenting from evil places you on the highway of holiness.
Protect purity and you protect your life.
Proverbs 16v17 TPT
These promise that integrity will lead to success and happiness, protecting purity protects our lives, and kindness and integrity are what keep leaders in the position of trust. Developing and keeping integrity helps to keep us safe, walking closely with God, and in good and healthy relations with others. People will know that we live by a godly value system and will follow us and put their confidence in us. We will be held in good regard as being a follower of Jesus, and our lives will glorify him. It’s when conditions become tough, or when we lose sight of God in the midst of a flurry of pressure and activity that temptation to compromise creeps in to make the edges of our integrity ‘fuzzy’. ‘Creative accounting’ practices and unrighteous inventive sales techniques are two that can creep into a business’s culture if the Kingdom entrepreneur fails to keep a grip on the culture and practices or fails to keep themselves in close union with Christ.
Integrity is foundational. It has to be fought for and can put you at odds with others in the business enterprise.
In keeping integrity I’ve found that a helpful practice has been to ask myself ‘would I do this if ‘x’ was here with me now’. ‘x’ can be your business partner, spouse, children, or Jesus! Fill in the ’x’ and then make that judgement. If you find that you are uncomfortable or have a feeling of loss of peace in your spirit or conscience, then you have your answer. Then apply courage and do not grieve Holy Spirit. Integrity is foundational. It has to be fought for and can put you at odds with others in the business enterprise.
Being in hotel rooms alone in the evening with nothing to immediately engage your attention and focus can be difficult. ‘Adult movies’ on the TV in the room can be purchased with the click of a button, a welcoming bar to ease your loneliness or homesickness, possibly with a ‘companion’ available, and a casino ready to swallow up your cash to fund a gambling habit are all in place to assuage the boredom and grab your attention. These temptations are to be resisted – if they are temptations to us. I find it helpful to purposefully keep myself engaged by making the most of my time to work in the evenings, to listen to a podcast or watch a previously downloaded film or programme, or to meet up with a friend or colleague to have dinner together and spend some time in conversation.
Fortunately, there were very few such temptations that came my way. There were the occasional attempts by a contractor (often a very small business) to suggest that we could keep the work that we had given to them off the account book by paying cash, so avoiding them the need to declare the income. There were very occasional requests to us not to charge VAT (equivalent to sales tax) by them paying cash and thus benefiting our cashflow. These fraudulent acts (which is what they would have been) were easy to identify and turn away. We had one interesting occurrence which actually caused us no issue but caught us by surprise!
Another director and I (both being principal consultants and trainers) ran a training course for managers and executives in Abu Dhabi. The course went well and at the end of the five days our host paid our invoice, which was a great help to our cash flow. As we were getting into the cab to take us back to the airport to fly to the UK, he gave us a large envelope containing the cash in UK pounds for payment! We looked at each other with a knowing glance, thanked our host for his hospitality and payment and were on our way. When we arrived at the airport, we had a dilemma. First, how did we deal with customs carrying a wad of cash, and second, how could we guarantee safety of the cash on the flight! The issue for us was not that we had been paid in cash and that we could benefit ourselves or defraud the UK tax authorities, but that we had been taken by surprise, not knowing that this was the custom in this Company, and that we were totally unprepared to have to carry the cash through two large airports and on a busy international flight. Anyway, all went well, and the cash was swiftly paid into our UK business bank account!
I remember, with some amusement, an occasion when I was travelling in Europe with my host from Levi Strauss. I was conducting a programme of facility audits and we were staying at standard business-brand hotel. One evening, when we returned from the factory, we agreed to meet up in the hotel bar for a drink before dinner. Having done this, we returned to our rooms to get ready for dinner. In the lift my host turned to me and asked whether I was aware of the lady who had travelled down with us in the lift and who had sat next to me at the bar. I honestly hadn’t! I was concentrating on our discussion. He laughed and made it clear that the lady’s services were to be procured and that this was common in such business-brand hotels in this country. We laughed about this when we met up on other occasions. I was simply thankful that I hadn’t noticed the lady, and that her services were of no interest to me!
We have to choose not to be mastered by anything
For the Kingdom entrepreneur, we would do well to remember that possessing qualities such as enthusiasm, energy, creativity, innovation and a willingness to take risks are all very well, but they can be harnessed to evil ends. Walking in integrity needs to be ingrained in ourselves and in our enterprises. We need to be sure that this is followed in all aspects of our endeavours and not just the more obvious ones. For example:
- honesty in sales and marketing practices and materials – perhaps particularly where staff are paid by commission
- consistency in practice – having set out your stall, whether our operational procedures, policies, our delivery standards etc – making sure that we keep them
- transparency with clients and business partners.
Fear losing the closeness of his presence
We have to choose not to be mastered or enslaved by anything – and in this case by anything that promotes me or the business in an unethical way (1 Corinthians 6 v 9 – 14 is a helpful text). Run from temptation when it comes, have those whom you trust pray for you, have a couple of intercessors who you keep honestly informed – the struggles, joys, issues, opportunities etc, and listen to what they feed back to you. Trust God’s protection and keeping power.
Fear God. Hold him in the highest esteem. Fear losing the closeness of his presence more than fearing the displeasure or embarrassment of your client host or business partner, or your friends living according to the prevalent post-Christian culture and value system. God supplies all our needs without us needing to be snared!
- Amity Insight. Corporate misconduct: when business ethics fail, and shareholder value is destroyed. Edentree Investment Management https://cms.trustnet.com/Media/Default/Docs/amity-insight-corporate-misconduct.pdf (accessed 07/08/2019).
- Higginson, R and Robertshaw, K. A voice to be heard: Christian entrepreneurs living out their faith. IVP. 2017. ISBN 978-1-78359-565-5.
- Higginson, R. Faith, Hope and Global Economy, IVP 2012. ISBN 978-1- 84474-580-7.