Integrity in all things

August 1st, 2018

Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

At first reading, it might appear that all these lessons from the Old and New Testaments are about marriage. They are, but not as we shall examine them. One could read Job 2:9 and wonder if Job didn’t think, “If I hadn’t married this woman, would I be suffering as much as I am now?” We don’t know how or why Job married; we just know that we find him already married and the proud and loving father of ten children, seven sons and three daughters (1:2). Job 2:9 is our first introduction to his wife. The Mark passage certainly addresses the seriousness of marriage in Jesus’ opinion, when the Pharisees and the disciples both ask Jesus about divorce. But the central theme running through all these passages for this nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost is the theme of one’s integrity in all things, both good and bad.

Let us begin with the Job passage. This portion from that book shares the intense suffering of Job during his lifetime. In a celestial battle between God and Satan, Job becomes the pawn in this challenge of how much a person can suffer before he or she loses integrity. Can you come face to face with suffering and still stay unwavering in your conviction of faith in God? That is integrity, staying true and committed to your ethical and faith standards. Integrity also asks Job, can you hear the thoughts of your spouse, well-meaning as they may be, that go against your own convictions and faith? We hope that Job’s wife spoke in love when she asks Job to do something that she believes will end his earthly suffering. Keep in mind this comes from a heart broken by the loss of her children and everything else she had ever owned.

As we come to the words of the psalmist, we hear his thoughts of staying true to God even in the face of having lost much in his own life. His cry for vindication comes as the result of his having been in the presence of the company of “sinners” and “the bloodthirsty,” whose “hands are evil devices” and “full of bribes.” This makes one wonder how much longer he can stay faithful to himself and God. Yet his resolve is to keep his integrity.

The writer of Hebrews shares his thoughts on all things through Christ, that even in the face of sin, through Christ we can remain faithful to God. Our holding fast to that makes us all brothers and sisters united in our praise to God.

In Mark’s Gospel we find Jesus’ remarks on marriage and divorce speaking of the need for one to remain a person of integrity, especially in the relationship that should be the most meaningful of all, marriage. Have you wondered about the timing of little children being brought to Jesus after this discourse, as if to say, when a marriage crumbles, who are the main victims of hurt and suffering if it is not the children? Jesus means it when he says that we are to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child.” In all these passages we find the reality of things, that life is never easy and that few relationships, if any, have no conflict or disagreement.

What, then, are our lessons for today? The first is this: in our daily life, we live better if we begin and end our day trusting God. The model of Job is that he was a “blameless and upright” man “who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job knew God, and because of his relationship with God, Job knew how to live. He was a man of steady prayer and faithful worship. His fear was for his children and their lives. They seemed to be a family that just partied all the time. After each party Job prayed for God’s forgiveness of his children.

The second lesson comes from the psalmist: walk with the Lord. If we love the Lord we will seek to walk with God. The psalmist sought to be in the house of the Lord as often as he could. But he also knew that the Lord is everywhere and our walk is a daily one, full of faith and trust. Secure your footing in God and you will not be easily moved.

The third lesson is from the writer of Hebrews: listen to God. We are so guilty of using prayer for our one-way dictation to God of things we need or want. The writer of this epistle knew that we pray best when we say our amen and listen for God to speak. The writer knew from his reading of the Psalms (Psalm 8) that God has made us all special, with a special relationship in which God is mindful of us and cares for us. If God is indeed mindful and caring toward us, won’t God be ready to speak to us in our times of need?

The final lesson is from the Lord Jesus himself: trust in God. To embark on a lifelong journey of marriage, the only way we can stay until “death do us part” is by the trust we have in God. Marriage is a serious undertaking and intended for a lifetime. Marriage, as understood by Jesus, was a sacred matter. The Lord is saying to us that marriage is to be treated as being from God, and with God’s help it can last for as long as is humanly possible. In all these things, our integrity will reflect the presence of God.

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