Upright character is an important ingredient in any person’s life. Character is the guard of your reputation and a necessity for success in any sphere of life. Without it, nations, businesses, churches, and families crumble and fall into moral disarray. However, important as character is, there is something that is even more important, and that is integrity.

The word integrity occurs sixteen times in the Bible, and is without a doubt one of the most important words in the scriptures. Throughout the Bible, there are three men who God told us specifically were men of integrity. The first of these (and with him the first mention of integrity in the Bible) is found in Genesis 20. The man was the heathen king Abimelech.

David, in 1 Kings 9:14, is the second man we find who God described as having integrity.

The third is Job, and the Bible refers to Job’s integrity four times. It was his integrity that kept Job from cursing God when he lost his children, his possessions, and his health. God acknowledged Job’s integrity to Satan in Job 2:3, and Job’s wife recognized it as well when she asked him, in verse 9, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). Job refused, and later, in Job 27:5, he said, “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”

What is Integrity?

I have found three definitions of integrity in the dictionary. First, integrity is “the condition or quality of being complete; undivided or unbroken; wholeness.” Second, integrity is “an unimpaired condition.” The third definition is, “moral soundness or uprightness.”

Several times the Hebrew word for integrity is translated uprightness. Proverbs 10:9 says, “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely.”

In Proverbs 10:29 we read, “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright.” Proverbs 28:6 says, “Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.”

Contractors and engineers refer to the integrity of steel. There are times when you can have two pieces of steel that both look great on the outside—there’s no apparent difference between them—but one of them, when it is put under stress, may not support the weight. The reason the other piece of steel does hold up under stress is because it has integrity.

Integrity and Character: What’s the Difference?

The English word character doesn’t actually appear in the Bible, but the Greek word from which we derive our English word does. Hebrews 1:3 refers to the “express image” of Jesus Christ. The Greek word there is karakter, from which we get our English word character.

What is the difference between integrity and character? Character is a matter of doing right, over and over until it becomes a part of your life.

You teach a child to get up in the morning, make his bed, get dressed, read her Bible, do his chores, and so on. You teach children to treat adults with respect. You teach them diligence, patience, and a good work ethic. When they learn all of that and then do it without thinking about it, they are displaying character. Character, somebody said, is doing right by habit. It’s simply doing the right thing automatically.

You can train character into a child. Good character is the natural response of acting or reacting according to high standards of behavior in every situation. (Editor’s note: See “Raising Kids with Character”by Dr. S. M. Davis in the Mar/Apr ’07 issue of Home School Enrichment for more on this topic.)

Now, integrity is character, but it is also more than character. Integrity is actually more important than character. Integrity is character that truly comes from the heart. It is character that is resolute. It is character that cannot be changed or polluted.