David's song, Psalm 15, opens with a probing question about our experience of fellowship with God in the temporal realm, our relationship with Him in daily life. He wanted to know what characteristics mark the person who is able to enjoy unencumbered, uninhibited association with the almighty Creator of the universe. Inspired by the Holy Spirit in his writing, David received and then recorded the Lord's reply.
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbour,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honours those who fear the LORD;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. (vv. 2–5)
David's answer describes several facets of the same gem called integrity (v. 1). He envisions a man who "walks with integrity." The Hebrew word means "to be solid, wholesome, complete." The believer who is interested in maintaining temporal fellowship is careful about how he or she lives, where he or she goes, and what he or she says. The "solid" person walks in the realm of truth, refusing to live a lie.
I count several specific characteristics of integrity, each deserving our attention.
1. He who works righteousness. This has to do with what we do. Righteousness is to be the habit of our conscious life. Our dealings are to be honest, our activities clear of compromise. We are to obey the laws of the land and to let the Law of God guide our every decision. Not merely law-abiding and moral, but above reproach. To do less is to weaken our integrity
2. He who speaks truth in his heart. This has to do with how we think. Notice that the truth mentioned here is spoken "in the heart"—attitudes, reactions, plans, and motives are in David's mind. The source of these things (the heart—Proverbs 23:7 KJV) is to be a bedrock of truth, no place for deception or lies or a hidden agenda!
3. He who does not slander with his tongue. This and the next two characteristics have to do with what we say. The Hebrew word translated "slander" literally means "to go about, to foot it"—we might even say "to hoof it." This would include one who walks here and there spreading malicious slander, pouring out verbal venom, and poisoning others' reputations behind their backs
This is an excellent time for me to pose a direct question. Does this describe you? Are you a gossip? Do you inwardly enjoy hearing or passing on some juicy tale that colours another's reputation? It is interesting that in the list of seven things God hates (Proverbs 6:16–19), three have to do with the tongue.
Several years ago I was given wise counsel regarding the use of my tongue. I hope it will help you as much as it has helped me. Before you pass along information or comments about someone else, let it first pass through four gates for approval. If all four give you a green light, share it without hesitation:
Gate 1: Is it confidential? If so, never mention it.
Gate 2: Is it true? This may take some investigation.
Gate 3: Is it necessary? So many words are useless.
Gate 4: Is it kind? Does it serve a wholesome purpose?
Here's another good piece of advice: If you ever have to say, "I hate to say this, but..." or "I really shouldn't say this, but..." then don't! Few statements from Scripture are more pointed on this subject than Ephesians 4:29. Look at it as it is recorded in Eugene Peterson's paraphrase (MSG):
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.