There is an ancient fable of an Emperor from China who had no children and needed to choose a successor.
Thousands of children from across the kingdom were called to the palace and were shocked when the Emperor exclaimed, “I have decided to choose one of you.”
“I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor!”
There was one boy named Ling who received his seed and returned to his village. His mother helped him to choose a pot and put some soil into it. Ling watered his pot every day.
Once a week, the children of the village would get together to compare their plants. After a few weeks, there were signs of life in all but Ling’s pot.
The weeks passed and Ling continued to water his pot every day. But nothing was growing. In a few months the other children had grown beautiful flowers and leafy shrubs. But poor Ling had nothing growing.
A year passed and it was time to return to the palace to show what had grown and decide on the new heir.
Ling was anxious as his pot still showed no signs of life. “What if they punish me? They won’t know that I’ve watered it every day, they’ll think that I’m lazy.”
His mother looked him in the eye and explained that whatever the consequences were, he had to return and show the Emperor his barren pot.
Ling and the other children entered the palace gates. By now, some of the plants were looking magnificent and the children were wondering which one the Emperor would choose.
Ling was embarrassed as other children looked at his lifeless pot and scoffed.
The Emperor came out and started to make his way through the crowd, looking at the many impressive trees, shrubs and flowers that were on display. The boys all puffed their chests out and tried to look as regal as possible, hoping that they would be chosen as the heir to the empire.
Then the Emperor came to Ling. He looked at the pot then he looked at Ling. “What happened here?” He asked.
“I watered the pot every day, but nothing ever grew.” Ling admitted.
Then he mumbled something to himself and moved on.
After a few hours, the Emperor finally finished his assessment.
He stood in front of the children and congratulated them on their efforts.
“Clearly, some of you desperately want to be Emperor and would do anything to make that happen, but there is one boy who has come to me with nothing. Ling, come here please.”
“Oh no,” thought Ling. He slowly sauntered to the front of the group. The Emperor held up Ling’s barren pot for all to see. The other children laughed.
“A year ago, I gave you all a seed.” reminded the Emperor. “I told you to go away, plant the seed and return with your plant. The seeds that I gave you all were boiled until they were no longer viable and wouldn’t grow, but I see before me thousands of plants and only one barren pot. Integrity and courage are more important values for leadership than proud displays, so Ling will be my heir.”
The word of the week is Integrity.
The wise man wrote, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Prov.11:3)
Integrity involves wholeness or soundness. It is something that maintains its condition without impairment. In terms of character integrity has to do with moral and ethical principles. Integrity involves honesty. Honor. Rectitude. Uprightness.
Integrity is NOT determined by circumstances. Or personal credentials. Or changing culture. Or Societal consensus. Integrity is based on Truth. Dictated by Christ. Guided by God’s Word. Integrity distinguishes between right and wrong. William Penn put this way, “Right is right even if everyone is against it. And wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it.”
Integrity is a choice. The Bible says, “If you have to choose between a good reputation and great wealth, choose a good reputation” (Prov. 22:1). It is a choice that we make in our business dealings. In our speech. In our relationships. And in our moral behavior.
Like Ling, may I be a person of integrity. Truly, “the man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Prov 10:9).
Ken, Weliever, The Preacherman