Outside of Florence, Alabama, near the remains of an antebellum mansion called Forks of Cypress, is a cemetery. The mansion was built in the 1820s by James Jackson, an early settler of northwest Alabama. There is no sign marking the spot, only a five-foot-high stone wall surrounding about 50 graves. Inside, there is a tall marker over James Jackson’s grave with a long inscription extolling his virtues.
There is also the marker for one of his sons, William Moore Jackson that includes his name, the dates 1824-1891, and this simple five-word epitaph: “A man of unquestioned integrity.”
Five words sum up his entire life.
What a tribute!
In the beginning of 1 Thessalonians 2, we read about integrity in the preaching of the Gospel. “For you, yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.”
What if someone had to describe our life and ministry with one five-word epitaph?
Would they say that our ministry is marked by integrity?
Would they say our life is lived with integrity?
If someone asked our wives and children about our life at home, would they describe us as men of integrity?
Would our shepherds, our co-workers, and others to whom and with whom we minister say we are men of integrity?
What about people who know us outside of our normal role as preachers? Would they report that we are men of integrity?
In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how popular we are, or how large our congregations are, or how much money we make, or how many places we speak; what matter most is do we live and preach with integrity.