“Whoever lives with integrity fears the Lord, but the one who is devious in his ways despises Him.” Proverbs 14:2 CSB
The definition for integrity in Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 includes this phrase: “integrity comprehends the whole moral character, but has a special reference to uprightness in mutual dealings, transfers of property, and agencies for others.” In other words, someone who walks with integrity is not a snake oil salesman. Snake Oil was brought into the country by the Chinese when they immigrated here in the mid 1800’s. The product they brought was actually an effective treatment for arthritis and bursitis. The ointment was made from the oil of the Chinese watersnake. But then there was Clark Stanley, also known as the “Rattlesnake King.” Because Chinese water snakes are not in America, he made snake oil out of rattlesnakes. Snake oil made from rattlesnakes did not possess the healing powers of the original oil. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Stanley didn’t even use rattlesnake oil in his potion. In 1917 the FDA analyzed his product and found the main ingredient to be mineral oil. He was a fraud, who had stolen money from anyone he had sold his product too. And his claim to fame is the originator of the term, “snake oil salesman.”
Clark Stanley did not fear the Lord, his devious way of doing business shows his lack of integrity. He lied to his customers. He took something that was good and made it bad. But then there is Stanley Tam who started his business in the 1930’s on the verge of bankruptcy, he made God controlling partner of his business. He literally went to an attorney and had legal documents drawn up putting God in charge. Now in his 90’s he gives millions away each year for the Great Commission. One man walked with integrity, one man did not. One walks with fear of the Lord, the other will forever be known as a fraud. Walking with integrity is especially challenging when money is involved.
When we were first married and I was adjusting to life with a joint checking account, we developed our budget. We each get a certain amount we can spend without asking the other. I was at the grocery store buying groceries, when I had this thought. “Ron will never know if I get an extra $20 back.” I was shocked I would even think such a thing. Ron and I during or premarital counseling were warned about how divisive money can be in a marriage. I had just had my first real taste of how that division could start so innocently. If I had chosen to take that path, where would it have led me? The lesson has remained with me of how easily any of us can stray, it takes but a moment to change direction. Gratefully, when you walk with integrity, fearing the Lord, He’ll keep your paths straight.