Awhile back I came across an interesting headline in Forbes magazine: “Success Will Come and Go, but Integrity Is Forever.” The article pointed out that building integrity takes years, but it only takes seconds to lose. How true.
Billionaire Warren Buffett says that when you’re looking for someone to hire, you should look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. Then he adds, “But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you.”
Moses had integrity. The Bible describes him as “Moses the man of God” (Deuteronomy 33:1 NKJV). And when Moses the man of God temporarily left the scene, it was complete chaos. He left his brother, Aaron, in charge of the Israelites while he went up to Mount Sinai to receive the commandments.
But while Moses was away, the people went to Aaron and basically said, “Hey, you know what? We need something we can worship.”
So Aaron told them, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me” (Exodus 32:2 NLT). Then Aaron took all of the gold, melted it, and formed it into the shape of a calf.
When the people saw it, they said, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (verse 8 NLT).
Meanwhile, Moses was up on the mountain. And when he came down and saw what they were doing, he said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?” (verse 21 NLT).
So why were the people worshiping a golden calf? They came from Egypt, and Egypt essentially was idol central. They had all kinds of images they worshiped, and the people were used to this sort of thing. So they reverted to it.
We see from this story that one man, Moses, lived a godly life and influenced millions of people. On the other hand, one man, Aaron, lived a compromised life and had a horrible influence on others.
Not only that, but Aaron lied. He said to Moses, “You yourself know how evil these people are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.’ When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire—and out came this calf!” (verses 22–24 NLT).
George Washington said that it’s better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
Aaron initiated this. He was responsible, but he didn’t take responsibility for his actions. It was on his watch that he helped the people commit idolatry. He should have stopped them cold and refused.
And to make matters worse, he wrapped it in religious jargon to do away with the guilt. He said, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” (verse 5 NLT).
This still happens. People will make sure they carry out a token spiritual action like giving thanks before a meal, but then they’ll go commit a gross sin. God doesn’t want to hear their grace at mealtime. Rather, God wants them to repent.
We find a fascinating passage in the Old Testament book of Amos, where God says, “Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (5:23 NLT).
Did you know there can come a point when you’re singing praises to the Lord and God effectively says, “Stop already! I don’t want to hear it. Your lifestyle contradicts what you’re singing. What you’re doing is offensive to me”?
That’s what was happening when the Israelites presented a burnt offering and worshiped the golden calf. God was saying, “I don’t want your burnt offering. I don’t want you to worship false gods. I want you to love Me with all your heart.”
What a contrast Moses and Aaron were. Moses set an example that the people could follow, while Aaron set a bad example. Moses was known for his decisiveness, conviction, and doing what was right. Aaron, on the other hand, was known for his indecisiveness, weak will, and desire to fit in.
You see, Aaron didn’t want to offend anyone. In the same way, sometimes we’re afraid to make a stand because we don’t want to offend.
Don’t do that. Make a stand. Do what is right, not what is easy. In fact, sometimes when you do what is right, it’s very hard.
A man or woman of integrity does the right thing whether or not someone is watching. When Aaron was with Moses, he was “godly.” And when he wasn’t with Moses, he was pretty ungodly. He gave in, and he led the people in their sin.
Sometimes we’re the same way. When we’re around strong believers, we’re strong—kind of. But the moment we’re away from them, we crumble.
Find strong Christians to be around. And in time, you need to be that strong believer yourself.
The highest compliment we can pay is to describe someone as a man or woman of God. May that be said of us, not just by casual acquaintances, but by our family and close friends, by those who know us well.
“I am only one, but I am one,” said Edward Everett Hale. “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Make your stand for what is right, and God will bless you for it.
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