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3 Tips for Walking the Tightrope of Integrity

Frank Santora

Pastor
Updated Feb 22, 2024
3 Tips for Walking the Tightrope of Integrity

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Have you ever questioned why moral scoundrels prosper, and wondered if it really pays to live a life of integrity?

According to Matthew 7:13-14, there is a reward for seeking the narrow gate with integrity, while the wide gate of compromise – cutting corners and taking shortcuts – leads to destruction. This verse is referring to the promise of eternal life if we choose to follow Christ, but we can also apply it to our everyday lives.

In modern times, integrity is rare. Integrity is what compels us to do the right thing, even when there is no one looking and regardless of the personal cost. If we’re honest, we struggle with integrity because in reality, it usually seems like the reverse of Matt. 7:13-14 would be the truth.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Sean Benesh

Woman being tempted to do evil

Do the Wicked Prosper?

Have you ever looked around and thought, good guys never get any breaks! Or noticed that businesspeople who cook the books and over promise/under deliver set record profits every year? And what about the people who abuse their bodies with drugs and alcohol, go for their annual physical and get clean bills of health, while health nuts have heart attacks? You wonder if that Scripture should actually be reversed.

David wondered this:

“For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men” (Psalms 73:3-5).

David was struggling with the idea that a life of integrity may not have been a good choice. We have likely all struggled with this thought a time or two. But David got an answer from God on the matter and we need to hear it:

“When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction” (Psalms 73:16-18).

When David asked God this question, it became clear; those that cut corners, compromise and take shortcuts are in real danger. They are walking a tightrope in life, and they are one step from falling with no safety net.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/ra2studio

Illustration of Samson tied to the temple pillars

Paying the Price of Compromise

Samson personally experienced the danger of compromise and paid the ultimate price (Judges 14-16). He was the quintessential individualistic, “he-man” with a “she-weakness” during a time when Israel was stuck in a bad situation, living under the rule of the Philistines. Samson was an unusual man, raised as a Nazarite, and set apart to God as a deliverer of Israel. His Nazarite vow included never touching anything dead, no wine, grapes or grape products, and never cutting his hair. These were outward symbols of an inward commitment of holiness toward God.

But as Samson grew, he began to question his vow and stray from his commitment. It was as though staying on the narrow road and waiting on God’s timing didn’t seem to be paying off in Samson’s mind. And in fact, at that time in history it appeared the Philistines prospered, while the Israelites suffered.

As Samson began to compromise, out of frustration and temptation, he began that slippery walk toward the wide gate, beginning by going down to Timnah (a Philistine city) and to pick out a wife. Even though his parents were against it, Samson pushed to get his own way. Clearly, he bought into the lie of the enemy that you can get close to compromise without actually compromising.

“So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done … After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion. He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion. So his father went down to the woman. And Samson gave a feast there, for young men used to do so” (Judges 14:5-6, 8-10).

Notice Samson first went to the vineyards, a place for growing grapes, and recall that his Nazarite vow included never touching wine, grapes or grape products (not even the skin or seeds). But the lie of compromise that is you can hang around compromise without falling into it. The truth is that even getting close to compromise often leads to falling.

Moreover, in a surprising display of the strength from the anointing on his life, Samson killed an attacking lion with his bare hands. Stopping by later, he went to get a closer look at the dead animal –  again, getting close to compromise. As he approached the carcass he was forbidden to touch, he discovered a honeycomb had been built in it. Thrilled with the find, he scooped up honey out of it and ate it, breaking his Nazarite vow to avoid touching anything dead.

Finally, Samson threw a feast in celebration of his marriage to a woman he wasn’t supposed to marry. In the Hebrew, it actually says “a drinking bout.” Now, I’m not sure what image comes to mind for you, but I doubt very much that Samson was sitting in the corning sipping Perrier and Lime.

The point is simple – those who walk the tightrope of integrity like Samson buy into the lie that you can get close to compromise without compromising. What began as simply getting close to the vineyard and the dead lion eventually lead Samson into a life of sin and compromise, breaking his vows to God, and a destiny cut short. He was deceived by Delilah, a corrupt woman, into revealing the source of his strength. He was betrayed, captured by his enemies, enslaved and tormented. Samson discovered you cannot play with sin and compromise without consequence. If you choose to walk the tightrope of integrity, you will eventually fall off.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/rudall30

praying hands in the dark

Keys to Living a Life of Integrity

Thankfully, if Samson is the poster boy for compromise, Jesus is the model of integrity! Jesus had the opportunity walk the tight rope of compromise too, and yet refused it.

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him’” (Matthew 4:8-11).

Satan was tempting Him to compromise and take a short-cut; to do the right thing (what He was destined for) the wrong way.

Come on, Jesus. We both know this is the reason why You came to earth – to gain back authority over all the kingdoms of the world. So if you just bow down and worship me, I’ll give it all to You without any of the pain!

Unlike Samson, Jesus refused to compromise his commitment to God or take short-cuts toward his destiny. If we follow His lead, we too can avoid the tightrope and remain walking on the narrow path that leads to life.

1. Jesus Prayed

“Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:41).

Jesus taught that the power to maintain integrity during trials is found in a personal commitment to prayer. He wanted unbroken fellowship with God more than He wanted a shortcut to rulership over the kingdoms of this world. Prayer will also give us the patience needed to avoid shortcuts.

Have you ever wondered why we are so susceptible to compromise? I think it’s because we want it now!

“Now” has become the most important thing in our modern microwave culture, and it seems we will do whatever it takes to get what we desire as quickly as possible. We don’t trust that God can or will get “it” to us if we wait.

But when we pray, patience, the fruit of the Spirit, gets stronger and stronger inside of us. We become empowered to resist the compromise of our character that a desire for “now” so often causes. We are filled with peace and grace to wait patiently on the Lord.

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Moreover, prayer gives us the desire to please God.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4).

The Message Bible translates this word delight as “keep company with God.” In other words, hang around God, talk to God, spend time communing with God. When we do, our hearts are fused with His, and we begin to want what God wants; His desires become our desires. As a result, we walk the narrow road naturally and easily and maintain our integrity.

And how do we do that? Prayer.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Doidam10

older woman sitting in living room with Bible thinking toward window

2. Jesus Paused

One of the key points in Jesus’ temptation account is the fact that He paused long enough to get a godly perspective. Every time Satan challenged Him, He responded with “it is written.”

Note that the devil also quoted Scripture, so the issue here is not with the words used. The important point is that Jesus took a cognitive break during the conversation, and challenged the devil’s temptation from a godly perspective based on the Word.

The power of temptation lies in your mind, thinking about it, justifying it… you deserve this, it’s your big break, no one will get hurt, it’s fun, no one will find out, you may never get this opportunity again!

So take the shortcut, just this once.

Jesus countered these temptations with a godly pause, an “it is written” mind-break that empowered Him to get a godly perspective on the consequences of falling to compromise. There is always more at stake than what we see in the moment, so it’s important to pause and consider God’s perspective.

3. Jesus Focused on the Prize

“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

The prize that Jesus focused on was you and me. The joy set before him was our salvation, our redemption, the bright future God planned for us; it was all at stake. Thankfully, Jesus focused on the prize, stayed on the narrow path, and never compromised His integrity.

Friends, don’t ever hop up on the tightrope or compromise your integrity by taking shortcuts. Your future is at stake, so much more than you could ever see in the moment. Pray, wait upon the Lord, and trust Him. Pause long enough to get a godly perspective, because there is more at stake than you can see in the moment! Most importantly, keep your eyes on the prize and remember, the narrow way really does lead to life!

RELATED PODCAST: Pray for your son to have integrity!

Photo credit: ©Getty Image/Daniela Jovanovska-Hristovska

Frank SantoraFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.

Originally published Wednesday, 21 February 2024.