Integrity, Character, Ethics and Morality

Integrity, character, ethics and morality. We tend to use these words interchangeably and consequently blur some essential distinctives. What is integrity? How is it different from ethics or morality? Jesus provided clarity to these concepts in Matthew 23:1-39.

Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites seven times in this sermon (verses 13,14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). He chided the Pharisees for saying one thing and doing another. Integrity is the direct opposite of hypocrisy and is the quality that people desire most in a leader. The Pharisees didn’t demonstrate integrity at all.

Whenever we talk about integrity today we generally use other closely related terms such as ethics and morality. Each of these words has a distinct meaning.

  • Ethics refers to a defined standard of right and wrong, good and evil. It’s what the Pharisees said they believed was right.
  • Morality is a lived standard of right and wrong, good and evil. It’s what the Pharisees actually did.
  • Integrity is when a person’s ethics and morality are integrated, combining their belief of what is right with actually doing what is right.

To the extent that a person’s ethics and morality are not integrated, that person lacks integrity. They aren’t doing what they said they believe is the right thing to do – hypocrisy.

A person who claims to be a Christian makes an ethical statement and has committed to a certain morality. For that person to have integrity, he or she must live by the biblical ethic. Jesus makes it very clear that the worst choice we can make is the hypocritical one.