Ecclesiastes 7:7: Integrity

Read: Ecclesiastes 7:7

Ecclesiastes has one short verse in Chapter 7 on bribery and extortion. Bribery as something that is inherently unholy almost goes without saying, but the Bible does speak to bribery in many places.

  • Exodus 23:8 explicitly forbids the act as a commandment.
  • Proverbs 15:27 speaks to the matter, saying that the one who accepts unjust gain brings trouble, but the one who does not accept bribes lives
  • Proverbs 29:4 is similar to 15:27, but talks about it from the perspective of a king: a king that does not accept bribes has stability in his country, but the one that does tears it down.
  • Psalm 26 speaks of a man who is blameless, and asking the Lord for vindication. He is contrasted with a man full of wicked schemes and who accepts bribes.
  • In Acts 24, Felix wanted a bribe from Paul so that he would let Paul go. Paul was never succumbed to the temptation; rather he remained in jail for two years under Felix.

Bribery and extortion is not limited to illicitly accepting money for some sort of illegal or dishonest act. A bribe can come in all kinds of forms. The principal of the matter is that one should not compromise one’s integrity for some sort of gain – that is one should be honest in his or her dealings. The Preacher says that accepting bribes turns one into a fool and corrupts the heart. Integrity is something that is difficult to maintain, and it only takes a single incident to ruin one’s integrity. But at the same time, integrity can also be the very thing that foils baseless accusations about corruption. A person who is not even suspected of being dishonest in his or her dealings has the integrity to carry him through. When this is not present, it can only lead to ruin.

Bribes come with a price. While accepting a bribe is easy, the bribe itself corrupts one’s heart and destroys one’s integrity. But such is not limited to bribes. Any number of compromises to one’s integrity can have the same effect. Christians should seek to not fall prey to the temptation of quick gains. They should maintain integrity on all fronts. Paul encourages Timothy to compete according to the rules as an athlete does so that he can win the prize (2 Timothy 2:5). Paul felt that he had run the race and would receive a crown of righteousness because he had done so according to the rules (2 Timothy 5:6-8). Paul expounds on this motif in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 saying that he trains to compete. The motif of an athlete practicing a strict training routine and competing according to the rules is analogous to the Christian life. The way to avoid temptation is to undergo strict training and compete according to the rules, and for the Christian this is done by exercising the spiritual training that comes from spending time learning God’s Word. This is intentional, not haphazard as Paul describes. There is purpose to the training so that one can hone skills so that he or she may perform with excellence. Second one competes by living one’s life according to what one learns from his or her training. In this manner, one can run the race and not be disqualified!

Lord, help me to train and compete so that I am not disqualified!