November 19, 2013| 0

Gut-Level Integrity (Psalm 26:2)

Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and my mind.

Call it the “intestinal computer.” Our inward parts—guts, heart and internal organs—are knit together with our moral sensibilities, so that we feel it in our gut when we have to make a tough choice. The original language of the Bible is poetic in describing the bodily location of integrity. “Heart and mind” here in the English translation are literally kidneys and heart in the original language. Our conscience is bodily woven into our innermost parts. Integrity is literally the stuff we’re made of.

When God puts us to the test, we feel it in our guts. The word “test” refers to the way a goldsmith refines with fire. When God tests us, it’s as if he smelts our innermost parts so that we may become pure all the way through, even to the hidden core of body and soul. When we are pure to the core, as David sings in this psalm, then we have integrity of body and soul to walk in the way of the Lord.

The smelting imagery offers a clue to Trinitarian ethics: God is the refiner, the Holy Spirit is the refining fire, and Christ in us is the embodied union of our will with God.

The practical implication is this: pay attention to your gut! The intestinal computer has a way of speaking to us, and we do well to listen. We also do well to train it, test it and refine it so that we know instinctively when temptations arise.  We have many ways of saying it—something doesn’t “sit right” or “feel right.” Heartburn, gut-level angst, indigestion: all these are signs of our moral computer at work. We can feel it in our gut when our moral character is being tested. The test of integrity is to get body, mind, and soul in alignment. That’s a spiritual “gut check.”

It’s not necessarily pleasant to experience this kind of test and to make the hard choices. But with the test of integrity there comes the joy of being in God’s will. The psalmist sings in exaltation at being purified by God’s redeeming and refining work. This is the ultimate source of moral integrity. Good business is all about writing checks and doing deeds that will withstand the “gut check” of God’s refining fire.

[cf. Ps. 7:9; Jer. 11:20; Rev. 2:23]

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© Bruce D. Baker, 2013

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