Does Character Really Matter?
When you see this question, your first response is “Of course! What’s wrong with you even asking the question?” The reality is that over the years, people of questionable character have made amazing contributions to society.
Some examples: Martin Luther King Jr. had extra marital affairs, yet no one doubts that what he accomplished for civil rights was extraordinary. Steve Jobs was a technological genius in helping to develop the personal computer. Jobs was also known for fathering a daughter he denied existed and for his ruthless treatment of people. Walt Disney is legendary for all the family entertainment he created through his movies, cartoons, and theme parks. It was also no secret that he used racial vulgarities often in private to describe black people.
In the Bible we also have examples of God using people that did things that were abhorrent. Abraham, considered the father of Judaism, lied twice about his wife being his sister so he wouldn’t be killed, or so he thought, by other tribal leaders who might take his wife from him. Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, blatantly favored his one son over the other eleven. David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to try and cover up his horrible behavior. Actually, he forced her to have relations with him, so in reality it was more like rape than consensual sex.
At this point you might be saying, “Well, character really doesn’t matter that much as long as you are doing great things.” While that might look like the bottom line, it actually isn’t true. While we can’t doubt that many achievements aren’t negated by a lack of character, CHARACTER DOES MATTER. Maybe a better way of looking at this is what if the above mentioned individuals also had great personal integrity to go along with their success? Wouldn’t that have enhanced everything they did? No, lack of character doesn’t necessarily negate great accomplishments, but it tarnishes what otherwise are stellar achievements.
To put it another way, lack of character profoundly affects people directly impacted. Think for a moment if you are that daughter not recognized by Steve Jobs. She might realize that what he did for computers changed the world, but don’t you think what she craves is his acknowledgment of her existence? Don’t you think his rejection caused her pain to the point that what Jobs accomplished was not nearly as important as having a father in her life?
Think of Bathsheba! David’s sin led to the death of the child she carried. Don’t you think Bathsheba grieved over the loss of this child, especially since this entire episode was made public?
When thinking about the importance of personal character, several Scriptures come to mind. Proverbs 10:9, “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” 1 Timothy 4:12, “Set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”
My son Rob has a business where companies call him up to put their product, like metal roofing, on his 40 foot trailer to transport to waiting customers. When Rob first began, he determined that whoever called him first would get his commitment to transport their product the next day. Sometimes two companies would call him, one that might pay $400 and the other who would pay $1000. But if the company who paid $400 called him first, Rob would commit to that company because he gave his word. In other words his integrity trumped getting paid more money.
I believe as a Christian that God looks out for his children who determine to do things the right way. I do want to insert that no one does this perfectly. God help us if the standard were perfection. It is crucial to note that God is always in the business of restoration. Having said that, we shouldn’t settle for a cheap grace that says “since God is ready to forgive, it is no big deal if I screw up.” I should always with God’s help strive to be the right kind of Christian, imitating our Savior as best as I can. This means I must commit to a lifestyle of character and integrity because it is the right way to be.
So here is the final analysis: We should want to do the right thing (good achievements), the right way (character and integrity), and never sacrifice one for the other. When we meet Jesus in heaven and he says “well done good and faithful servant”, that he not only means that we accomplished things for the Kingdom of God, but that we became more like Him.
Does character matter? I believe eternally so!