integrity

Trustworthy Joseph

Photo by  Liane Metzler  on  Unsplash

Who would you trust?

If you were God—you’re not nor am I—but imagine what it would be like for God to consider who He would entrust as a father for His newborn Son.

We live in a world where trust appears as a fragile virtue—when trust is scarce. But the world is not so different now, in that sense, as when Jesus was born almost 2000 years ago.

Israel—God’s people—were a nation under occupation by the powerful pagan Roman empire, including its ruthless soldiers.

Not so special

Look at the attention given to the British Royal family and the Queen’s grandchildren! We might expect a lot more attention and fanfare for the birth of God’s only Son (John 1:14). But it wasn’t so.

A remarkable facet of the Christmas story is how the birth of Jesus took place.

No special national attention was given to His birth until two years later (Matthew 2:1–12). And that attention proved to be tragic (Matt 2:16–18).

Sure, there was an awesome angelic announcement outside of Bethlehem (Luke 2:8, 14), but who heard it? A group of nomadic—not-so-clean nor trustworthy—shepherds. They were not people of honorable status.

Shepherds were the equivalent of the old range cowboys of America — not exactly who you’d want your daughter to marry. Not quite the royal announcement you’d expect for the birth of the King of Kings!

No ordinary man

One of the fascinating parts of the Christmas story to me is the father of the Savior of the world. Actually, Joseph was the stepfather (Luke 1:26–38).

This is made clear by Joseph’s initial plan when he heard his bride-to-be was pregnant. He knew it wasn’t his child. But here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly. (Matt 1:18–19 NCV)

Joseph was not an ordinary man. At first, he may appear ordinary, as a carpenter from a small town in northern Palestine (Israel). What makes Joseph extraordinary is the trust God places in him.

Joseph was a trustworthy man

Photo by  Filip Mroz  on  Unsplash

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Consider Joseph the man

The first thing I notice is Joseph’s character. He was “a good man.” Other Bible versions use the words just, righteous, upright, and honorable to describe Joseph. He had integrity. The kind of character God could trust.

Joseph was a compassionate and humble man

When Joseph finds out Mary—the woman he is legally promised to marry—is pregnant, he doesn’t want to publicly disgrace her. Though it was humiliating, he wasn’t vindictive. He still loved his wife-to-be.

Joseph was spiritually perceptive

His plan to quietly divorce Mary is interrupted by a dream. In the dream, an angel of the Lord informs Joseph what’s taking place.

While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Matt 1:20–23 NCV)

Consider this remarkable message to Joseph

  • Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, not another man

  • Joseph is to go forward with the marriage

  • The child will be a son, to be named Jesus, because He will be a Savior

  • This was planned by God long ago

  • The Son’s name means “God is with us”

A final insight into Joseph’s trustworthiness is his response to all of this.

Joseph responded in faith to the message from God’s angel

When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus. (Matt 1:24–25 NCV)

  • Joseph takes Mary as his wife

  • He accepts and bears the scandalous appearance of illegitimacy

  • He abstains from sexual relations with Mary until after the child’s birth

  • He names the child Jesus

Joseph was a faithful and responsible man

More to the story

There is more to the story, of course, but you can read it yourself. The story of Christmas is found in the first two chapters of both the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Joseph’s qualities as a man — good character, compassion and humility, spiritual perception, and faithfulness — add up to a trustworthy man.

These are qualities to be admired in any man

God is still looking for men like Joseph. Men who are trustworthy to bring the message of God’s redemption to a dark, insecure, and untrusting world.

This Christmas, think about the man to whom God entrusted as a father to care for His Son — the Savior of the world.

The Savior — crucified and risen, now seated in power in heaven — will transform any person who puts their trust in Him above all.

God is still looking for men like Joseph who are trustworthy

Are you willing to become a person like Joseph?

Personal Application Question

Which of Joseph’s virtues do you most identify with and which one do you least identify with—his integrity of character, compassion, humility, spiritual perception, faithfulness, or his trust in God?


This post was first published in Publishous on Medium— Trustworthy Joseph

Got Integrity?

Photo by  Chris Lawton  on  Unsplash

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

The news media feed off scandals and scares. So do we who watch it. Good news doesn't sell. It's nice to hear but gossip, rumor, and scandal win out over heart-warming stories.

Ever notice how the feel-good stories come at the end of a broadcast? It's not an afterthought, it's about priorities.

Virtues like honesty and integrity are nice but boring, at least our American pop culture values seem to declare this. It causes me to ask myself, "Got integrity?"

Scandals galore

I use to enjoy watching those year-in-review programs as one year ended and a new one began. But not anymore. I'm tired of hearing a review of the disasters, expose's, and alleged scandals, as viewed through the bias of whichever media presents it.

This past year alone (2017) we saw sex abuse scandals rock the entertainment industry, Olympic sports, political figures, and businesses. How about the Equifax data breach covered up for two months while affecting millions of people?

Our nation has become more and more polarized with hate and intolerance over the years and it doesn't seem it will subside anytime soon. And the world around us seems to get more corrupt and dangerous each day.

Last year I heard the sad story of the pastor of a large church who plagiarized another man's sermons and passed them off as his. It happens too often. Of course, there are also plenty of sex and money scandals involving pastors and church leaders.

I see it as a lack of integrity—a lack of character. It has a corruptive effect beyond the individual because of the influence and impact each of our lives has on others.

Lack of integrity and character corrupts us and others around us

A change is needed

Something needs to change but how can it happen? Who will take the lead? How do we mobilize change for good instead of the current mobilizing of one faction in opposition to another?

It's easy to generalize and demonize people we don't agree with but this accomplishes nothing, other than increase hate and polarization. At the center of it all is us—people.

Each one of us has our own will—a self-will that is fiercely protective of whatever we consider most important for our self-preservation.

You can appeal to the intrinsic goodness of man but this is a deception at best. In truth, it's hypocrisy. Humankind is not evolving into a better, nicer homogenous race. The evil and injustice in the world are human-caused. There's no self-less or external cause.

It's not the result of a few bad choices but the ongoing, cyclical effect of selfish human nature. If we want to escape hypocrisy and hyperbole, we need to pursue integrity. Integrity for ourselves and choose to be with others who seek and value integrity.

If you want to escape hypocrisy and hyperbole—pursue integrity

From the inside out

The change needed must begin on the inside and work its way outward. This doesn't happen through psychological reorientation, a new philosophical mindset, or increased religious zeal. It requires a genuine change of heart and a continued commitment to integrity.

We can settle for blaming others, even God, but that's a bitter way and a dead end. It doesn't resolve or change anything for the better. We are neither locked into some fatalistic destiny nor should we hope humanity will eventually evolve into a higher moral consciousness.

William Shakespeare is often credited for saying there's "nothing new under the sun," but this was written long ago by King Solomon of Israel in the book of Ecclesiastes (Eccl 1:9). This book appears to mirror the current cynical outlook of many but it has a deeper message and a better perspective (Eccl 3:11-14).

The change we need must begin on the inside and work its way outward

GIGO

The expression—"garbage in, garbage out" or GIGO—was coined by computer programmers to explain why a computer would not process information correctly. If it wasn't programmed with good input, then it couldn't generate good output.

It's pretty much the same for the human mind and heart. If we take in faulty reasoning or untrue or inaccurate information, it directly impacts our life—our thoughts and actions, our attitude and behavior.

The book of Proverbs, also written by Solomon, is filled with sayings, metaphors, parables, and couplets of wisdom for daily life. The opportunity and choice to pursue foolishness and evil are always present but a wise person chooses differently and pursues a life that is right, just, and fair (Prov 2:9 GW).

Pursuing integrity

Back to the question—How can things change in our world? It begins with us. Each one of us.

Caught up in a student protest over the Vietnam war, I was stopped short by a simple statement from one of the school staff. She simply pointed out, "Until change comes in your heart, nothing will change in the world."

Looking back, I believe she was a humble, genuine Christian believer. At that time, I was wandering in the chaos of the culture around me. But what she said went straight to my heart and remained.

What does integrity look like? The dictionary gives us descriptions such as—soundness, completeness, incorruptibility, character, uprightness, decency, honesty—in other words, people of character who are considerate and respectful of others and are worthy of respect.

What does integrity look like?

Getting started

I'd like to share three things that can help with the pursuit of integrity—3 things to keep in mind. They're not the end-all-be-all but a start in the right direction.

  1. We are not in control of the world around us or others, nor should we be. But we can and do have influence in other people's lives. Remember the lives of Rosa Parks and MLK Jr in the US, and Mother Theresa in India and beyond. Consider people who have a good influence in your own life, they're probably people of character and integrity
  2. We are responsible for our own life choices, attitudes, and actions. Blaming others and holding on to unrealistic expectations is useless. We need to accept accountability for ourselves and realize the impact of our life example—for good or bad. As Jesus wisely said, "Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?" (Matthew 7:3 NLT)
  3. Our life on earth is not forever. It's short and valuable and will come to an end. Whether you think the end of life on earth is a "fade to black" end or you hope in life or something else beyond this life, accountability for our lives is a reality we all face sooner or later. Often times, we are and should be held accountable in life along the way.

Just start the pursuit

As said before, change needs to start on the inside and work its way out. Once we start pursuing integrity for our own life, we need to continue in a commitment towards integrity and a rejection of hypocrisy and hyperbole. This will likely include a change in other life pursuits.

Change takes time. Real change requires an investment—a continuing commitment on our part. Think of it as a seed that grows into a tree. It starts out with the seed dying, then sprouting and taking root. It grows into a tree over a period of time.

Real change requires an investment and a continuing commitment on our part

Got integrity? None of us have it all together or have a corner on it all but we can all start the pursuit. The words of an ancient prophet ring true in this regard—

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV)

Got integrity?