Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quote of the Week

"More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme"

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.75

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We Are Slaves Of What We Crave

You've probably heard about how "money can't buy happiness" but seldom from folks as wealthy as Austrian millionaire, Karl Rabeder. Mr Rabeder came to this realization and proceeded to put together a plan to give his $4.7M fortune away... all of it.

"My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing."

Like many, Mr Rabeder used to pursue material wealth as a means to a happier life -

"For a long time I believed that more wealth and luxury automatically meant more happiness,"

Even though he knew better, over the years he never had the courage to give up the trappings of the "good life". However, over time, he came to a new and counter-cultural conclusion - he was enslaved by his possessions.

"I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need...there are lot of people doing the same thing."

His conclusion upholds an unequivocal principle - "we are slaves to the things we crave".
We don't actually have to possess things to be enslaved by them... we only have to want or crave things for them to have a hold on our lives.

Jesus' words from Luke 12:15 serve as a sobering reminder for us -

"Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

It's not simply possessions that we are to guard against but rather against "all covetousness". We can be poor and yet covet. Unguarded, we could find ourselves placing our hopes of a better life in the riches and possessions of this world. The problem with coveting is that the treasure we pursue is not worthy of the purpose for which we were made.
On the contrary, if we desire fellowship with God, we will find ourselves joyfully and satisfyingly captive to Him.

If like Mr Rabeder, we find that "we are slaves of what we want", then perhaps it would be appropriate to ask - "what is it that you really want and is it ultimately satisfying to your soul?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quote of the Week

"Satan takes no vacations. The moment we are content in this fallen world, the dangers return - not least the danger of over-contentment. Without being contentious, prepare for conflict; without being combative, equip yourself for the 'good fight' (2 Tim 4:7). It will last at least as long as you live."

D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol II, p.30

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Integrity - Does It Matter Without God?

I recently read an interesting interview with Michael Jensen, a Harvard Business School professor who has written on the topic of integrity. In the interview, I liked how Jensen defined integrity, not simply as a set of values but as wholeness.

"An individual is whole and complete, when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honor their word."

Jensen also speaks highly of the importance of integrity, especially for optimal performance or effective "workability". In other words, without integrity, nothing works.

"Integrity is important to individual, groups, organizations and society because it creates 'workability'. Without integrity, the workability of any... person, group or organization declines; and as workability declines, the opportunity for performance declines. Therefore, integrity is a necessary condition for maximum performance"

All good stuff - if there's anything I applaud, it's promoting the high value of integrity in the workplace. Every great organization is built on integrity and Michael Jensen is right - integrity is essential for optimal performance. That's because integrity fosters trust.... and trust is the basis for great collaboration, creativity and teamwork.

However, I think Jensen whiffs on a critical point when he sharply delineates between integrity, morality and ethics.

"Integrity is a purely positive proposition. It has nothing to do with good vs bad. Morality and ethics, on the other hand... deal with matters of good or bad, right vs wrong."

In the interview, he draws comparisons between the law of gravity and the "law" of integrity, insisting that it is devoid of moral component. The problem with Jensen's view is that it simply isn't true - you cannot separate integrity from its moral component and when you do, you're left with a hollow shell. It's the kind of "integrity" that's shaped by pragmatism but devoid of value. It's ultimately weightless and insignificant. If the primary reason for integrity is simply because "it works", we miss the very point of integrity altogether.

There are two primary reasons why I think Jensen has it wrong -

1. First and foremost, the Bible in fact, draws a clear, straight line from God to the very notion of integrity. God is described as a God of integrity. Integrity makes sense for men and women because it radiates from our Creator, who is Himself full of integrity. Integrity is an essential component of who God is. The fact that God keeps promises and deals justly with His Creation are all evidences of His integrity.

God also demands integrity from us. God is deeply interested in just, honest business dealings - "a false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight". He is in fact so committed to integrity that He blesses those who walk in integrity - "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them." (Proverbs 11:1, 11:3)

2. If integrity is truly about wholeness of the individual, as Jensen says, then wholeness has to involve more than just keeping your word in one particular area of your life. What would Jensen say about a business man who keeps a high standard of integrity in his business dealings but unfaithful as a husband? True integrity is more than just a collection of actions/decisions, it's about the whole person in all of life.

Can integrity be separated from morality, ethics or accountability to God? What do you think? What does living a life of integrity mean to you?