Spirit & Truth # 257
“To be a Nathanael!”
By Greg Smith
The August, 1989 edition of Today in the Word (page 40) shares a story about integrity:
“It is said that as the great Michelangelo painted the magnificent frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel--lying on his back for endless hours to finish every detail with great care--a friend asked him why he took such pains with figures that would be viewed from a considerable distance. ‘After all,’ the friend said, ‘Who will notice whether it is perfect or not?’ ‘I will,’ replied the artist.”
It has been said that integrity is when a person is the same person when no one is looking, as they are when everybody is watching. Michelangelo believed that his artistic integrity made a difference, because if his workmanship was poor, he would know about it—whether others knew it or not. Jesus calls God “The Father who sees in secret (Matthew 6:18).” He sees not only your secret actions but also the secret places in your heart. God measures your integrity, in part, by how you handle your privacy. John 1:47-50 (NIV) says:
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (John 1:47-50 NIV).”
Oh, to be a Nathanael! What an unsung hero of the faith! In Jesus’ day it was commonly known that the fig tree was a place of privacy, where a man could hide out beneath its broad leaves and get away from everybody. Some people use their privacy for selfish, silly, or sinful things, but Nathanael used his privacy well. From Jesus’ words we get the impression that Nathanael used the fig’s privacy screen for prayer and meditation. Publicly he was upright, but privately also he kept his integrity. In him there was no deceit. Jesus knew this because He knew Nathanael’s heart.
Ask yourself, “Am I the same person when I think no one is watching me, as I am when all eyes are on me?” Jesus promises a reward for people with integrity. He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).” He tells Nathanael, “You will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (John 1:50).” God sees you—but do you want to see God? In this world or in the next, God promises this blessing for those who are pure, who walk with integrity of the heart. I want to be a Nathanael! Don’t you?