Proverbs 11:3

Proverbs 11:3 "The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them."
Proverbs 11:3 Baptist Church Buffalo NY
While I’m not a big fan of being restricted to a group and its guide when traveling, I recognize the clear benefits of having a tour guide when going into unfamiliar territory.  The internet has definitely made it easier to travel without the help of a tour guide but that doesn’t mean we don’t need guidance.  In many ways in today’s world, the tour guide is just taking on a different face.  When it comes to traveling, the internet has become the tour guide.  With its maps, reviews, blogs and social media posts, the internet gives us guidance when we travel into unfamiliar territory.  Guidance, whether in the form of a local guide or in the form of online information, is critical for a safe and successful trip into the unknown.

In our pilgrimages to the Holy Land, we secure the services of a tour guide for many reasons.  One of those reasons is to keep us safe.  While most of Israel is safe for tourists, there are areas of conflict that should be avoided and the local tour guide knows what we foreigners don’t know about those areas.  Without an experienced and knowledgeable tour guide, it would be easy to intentionally or accidentally end up in an area of the country that could be unfriendly to Westerners.  Without a well-informed guide, it would be easy to go somewhere at the wrong time or say something in the wrong way.  Without an insightful guide, it would be easy to find trouble simply out of ignorance of local culture, traditions and customs.  Having been to Israel with different tour guides, I have grown to appreciate their value because they tell us where to be careful and who to be careful with.  They tell us who to talk to and who not to talk to.  They tell us where to use cash and where to never use a credit card.  They tell us what to wear at holy sites and what not to wear at holy sites. They tell us where we’re welcome and where we aren’t welcome.
 
When going to unfamiliar places, guidance is necessary.  Life is one such place.  No one can afford to go through life without guidance.  Every day is a new day with new challenges and unfamiliar territory.  No one can be sixteen twice.  No one can live their sixtieth year twice.  As important as experience is, it doesn’t replace the need for guidance.  Experience teaches many things but it doesn’t prepare you for the unfamiliar territory in life - it only prepares you for the familiar territory in life.  Life is wildly unfamiliar much of the time.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you see something new.  Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you hear something new.  We need a guide every day to get us through life.  Without a guide, we’ll say something we shouldn’t say.  Without a guide, we’ll go somewhere we shouldn’t go.  Life is hostile and has trouble waiting around every unfamiliar turn.
 
In this proverb, Solomon proposes that integrity be that guide.  In doing so, he declares integrity the confident guide of the upright in an unfamiliar world.  The upright are such because they possess integrity, or moral wholeness, honesty and purity.  That integrity tells the upright where to go in life and where not to go.  Integrity tells the upright what to say and what not to say.  Integrity tells the upright who to give money to and who not to give money to.  Integrity tells the upright who to make friends with and who not to make friends with.  Integrity tells the upright how to treat people and how not to treat people.

At times, a tour guide can seem a little restrictive and even annoying but the consequences of not having a guide can be devastating.  Abandoning a tour guide can seem liberating but it can be very dangerous.  Without that insight, you’ll say the wrong thing to the wrong person.  Without that guidance, you’ll go down the wrong street at the wrong time.  A lack of integrity leads to an abundance of immorality, which ultimately results in one’s demise.  It is the perverseness of a transgressor that destroys him.  A transgressor goes where he shouldn’t go.  A transgressor goes and does what he wants to do and because he is motivated by pure selfishness, it will lead to his destruction.
 
Without integrity in an unfamiliar world, a soul is without guidance.  He does what he wants.  He does what feels good.  He does what makes him happy at the time.  He has no moral guidance.  He has no warning.  He has no insight.  He is naïve about the consequences of his decisions.  He is ignorant about the ramifications of his pleasures.  The person who lacks integrity lives in an unfamiliar and unfriendly world with a substantial handicap and essentially becomes a sitting duck for trouble.  The person who possesses integrity lives in the same unfamiliar and unfriendly world but receives the information necessary to avoid the dangers awaiting him.  Integrity guides us through life and helps us avoid enraging another woman’s husband or another man’s wife.  Integrity guides us through life and helps us avoid provoking the sword of God’s governing minister.  Integrity guides us through life and helps us avoid stirring up the wrath of God.  Integrity guides us through life and helps us avoid the street of dishonesty and the community of disobedience.

Integrity may seem to be a party-pooper on occasion but it knows what we don’t know about our world.  Integrity is invaluable.  We often don’t appreciate its value until we see the harsher side of life.  When I think of integrity, Job always comes to mind.  He lost nearly everything in life and had never been in that situation before.  There was no class to prepare him for losing most of his assets, many of his employees and all of his children at one dreadful time.  There wasn’t a person he could turn to who had experienced the exact same loss.  All of his experience and wisdom was woefully inadequate to prepare him for this moment.  How would he respond to life?  How would he respond to God?  He couldn’t turn to any teacher, person, book or even any of his wisdom for guidance.  He only had his integrity; his God-fearing character.  Integrity was all that he needed on that day for it guided him through unfamiliar and frankly, unfriendly territory.  Integrity told him, “whatever you do, don’t curse God.”  And so, Job wisely listened to his tour guide and “sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22).  Some short time later, God applauded Job in front of Satan saying, “hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an UPRIGHT man, one that feareth God, and esceweth evil? and still he holdest fast HIS INTEGRITY (Job 2:3).  Job had a wise voice within to guide him through unfamiliar territory and the Bible calls it INTEGRITY.

Integrity is more than just moral soundness – it is the virtue that gets you safely through an unfamiliar world. Those who choose to do life without integrity inevitably get into grave trouble and find the grave sooner.
 
Got a Guide?  If not, get integrity.  When you don’t know which way to turn, just follow integrity and go the right way.  When you don’t know what to say, just follow integrity and say the right thing.  When you don’t know what to do, just follow integrity and do the right thing.  Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do in an unfamiliar and unfriendly world.  Integrity will keep you safe and make your trip through life as successful and satisfying as possible.

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