By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Judges 17.1-18.31
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the book of Judges in conjunction with this article.
Compromising Your Integrity
Sometimes the things we have learned, whether secular or spiritual, are not fully accurate or correct and forces the need to “unlearn what [we] have learned” to apply what Yoda said to Luke in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode 5). This is what Saul (Paul) had to do. I had to do. You may have to do. However, there are times that we know what is right and compromise our integrity, such is the case of the young Levite1 turned Priest for hire. Yet, even in this case, I am making a conclusion (not necessarily warranted) that the Levite had in his upbringing the correct things regarding Jehovah and the Hebrews’ responsibility toward Him.
The Young Man
Judges 18.30-31 provides the focal point of these two chapters (17 and 18); these verses read:
And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.
The whole text is designed to tell us how the tribe of Dan came to have idols for worship. But the reality is that a Levite (the priestly tribe of Israel) contributed to this situation because he was willing to adjust his practices as the situation demanded; he did not view his “adjustment” as compromise.
It would be nice to think that the young Levite struggled with his conscience, but we are not told. What we are told is that when Micah offered the Levite an occupation2 of religious significance along with a compensation package, the Levite did not hesitate to take the new job. Recall the disarray of Israel: everyone did what was right in their own eyes3 and food was probably scarce. Saying life was difficult is probably an understatement. It seems that the Levite quickly responded to the occupation; but the inclusion of the salary makes it appear that he took the job because of the compensation (money and food); things that hard to come by in any time period.
But as time moved along, the Levite’s willingness to remain in a role that violated Torah4 resulted in him being taken captive by the tribe of Dan. They forced him to be their priest5 and, yet he did not seem to struggle, because Judges 18.20 states, “the priest’s heart was glad”. As I read this account, I ask myself, “How is it possible that devotion to proper principles seem so easily abandoned?” The answer eludes me, until I consider some of my own culture.
The Young Today
This can be the physically young or the young-at-heart. The reality remains that there are times that we compromise and are probably not aware of it. To keep it in parallel with the Judges account, when have you or I been offered compensation that slowly chips away at our devotion to Jehovah’s righteousness? Can we be bought? Does every person have a price?
This is where we must reflect. I will use myself as an example for reflection. As I mention these things, my price may have been different than yours, but I guarantee that I have compromised my understanding of principles before; it is my prayer that I do not do so in the future. In general, here are seven ways that I have compromised proper devotion to Jehovah (in no particular order):
- Watching movies I should not watch
- Listening to music I should not listen to
- Reading books, comics, magazines, web pages, etc. that I should not read
- Working when I should be with my family
- Playing/Sleeping when I should be working
- Fighting with people when I should be forgiving
- Destroying people’s faith when I should be encouraging
Do any of these general statements ring familiar? One has to learn the right thing before they can compromise. So, for those who do not necessarily know what is right (e.g. little children), how can they possibly compromise? But for those who have been taught right, have you compromised?
What do you know as right and have compromised? What was/is your price? New Shoes? A new car? Perhaps a CD, DVD, Blu-ray Disc? Sensual satisfaction? Argumentative logical domination? What idol have you served? What idol will you serve? Self? Money? Occupation? Recreation? Intellectualization? Dramatization? When any of these take priority over practicing devotion to right, then compromise is being made. The difficulty is to recognize the compromise, pray about the failure and devote yourself to Jehovah and non-compromise. Sometimes devotion to Jehovah actually modifies theological beliefs and practices, these should be. Improving action, devotion and meditation to Jehovah’s teachings should always be. These are not compromise. May the Lord bless you and me as we study and live His Word.
1. “Young Man”, Judges 17.7, 11, 12; 18.3, 15; perhaps 17.30 provides his name
2. “Occupation”, Judges 17.10
3. “Disarray”, Judges 17.6
4. “Violation”, Exodus 20.3-4 – command against idol worship, Micah worshipped idols, Judges 17.1-5
5. “Dan’s priest”, Judges 18.18-19, 30-31