MERIDIAN — "So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority." — Genesis 39:4
Fifty years ago, I attended the sixth grade at Overstreet Elementary in Starkville, Miss. That year, the principal gave me the lunch money for the school in a money bag to deliver to the bank five blocks away by riding my bicycle without anyone else going along.
As I went to the bank each day, I felt urgency that every penny made it to the bank. The bag was never locked, just zipped. It would have been very easy to open it and help myself, but I knew that would be wrong and I wanted to be seen as a person of integrity. Even at the age of 12, I had committed my life to living for Christ and knew God’s call to be a minister. To me, integrity was a given to be what God wanted me to become.
I think 1972 was a water shed moment in our opinion of leaders and integrity in our society. Watergate and President Richard Nixon caused us to have a strong distrust for anyone in leadership positions. Before that situation, press and public revered leaders and looked for the best in them. After Watergate, anyone in a leadership position is seen with suspicion.
To be honest, many have failed under scrutiny. We have seen abused power and privilege excuse excessive and abusive behavior. Entertainers, ministers, public servants, business executives, and athletes are but a few of the professions that have proved a lack of integrity.
Our society has difficulty identifying heroes. With negative mindsets, we vilify anyone in the public eye. We suspect that anyone who can bend rules will do so. Integrity is a characteristic few possess.
Joseph was given authority over everything in Potiphar’s home. Later, Joseph’s integrity will be challenged. Potiphar’s wife wanted to have illicit relations with him. However, Joseph repeatedly refused. His reason for rejecting the abuse of privilege is striking. He said, “No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
Joseph had enough integrity that he was consistent in character no matter the circumstances.
I don’t know if my principal ever followed me to the bank or checked to see if all the money was deposited. It didn’t matter. My relationship with God and my desire to please him made consistency automatic.
Real people of character do the right thing even when no one is looking. In a day when hypocrisy is expected, integrity is needed even more. Why not prove who you really are. Be a person of virtue and consistency. At the end of the day you will be glad you can respect yourself!
Dr. John A. Temple is pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, located at 4032 Poplar Springs Drive in Meridian. Visit the church website online at www. psdbc.org.