When I hear the term “grand slam,” my mouth waters and I’m headed to Waffle House. (My last waitress was named Poot. People like her are why I love Waffle House.) But the term “grand slam” was coined to describe the feats of one man: Bobby Jones.
We have to go back a century to see the golfer Bobby Jones in action. The 1920s was not just the decade of Babe Ruth; Bobby Jones was just as well-known and celebrated. Jones was an amateur golfer who won tournament after tournament. The decade ended in 1930 with Jones winning all four major golf tournaments.
- The U.S. Open
- The British Open
- The U.S. Amateur
- The British Amateur
It was for this feat someone coined the phrase “grand slam.” Shortly after that, at the ripe old age of 28, Bobby Jones retired. He was at the peak of his game, and he walked away.
What I admire even more than his skill is his integrity. In the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones was lining up for his next shot when the head of his club brushed the grass and caused a slight movement of the ball. Ouch. That’s a one-stroke penalty. But here’s the thing: NO ONE NOTICED AND NO ONE CALLED HIM ON IT.
You’ve got to ask yourself: what would I do? $500 in prize money was at stake (about $7500 today), and in a tight, competitive game like this, one stroke could make the difference between winning and losing—and it did. Seriously, what would you do? Not a soul noticed. Besides, Jones didn’t even touch the ball; he touched the grass, and he didn’t even mean to do that.
Jones called a foul on himself.
The judges argued with him. They hadn’t seen anything. They couldn’t attest to the fact he touched the ball, so they weren’t going to call a foul. At this point, those of us struggling with the ethical question earlier could give a sigh of relief. Whew. OK, I tried to be honest, but since you won’t penalize me, I’ll go along. After all, you’re the judge.
Not Bobby Jones. He insisted. He pointed to Rule 18 about moving a ball at rest. And with that, the judges relented and gave him the penalty. Bobby Jones lost the game by one stroke.
The sportswriters made a big deal about this, heaping on the praise for his honesty and integrity. Supposedly, Jones said in response, “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”
For Bobby Jones, integrity was not an option.
For the follower of Christ, integrity is not an option. Integrity comes from the same root word that we get integer: a whole and complete number. A person of integrity is one person; he is the same through and through. The people at home see the same person that the people at church or at work see. His character is consistent regardless of the setting or circumstances. It doesn’t matter if he is alone, with friends, or in a crowd of strangers: integrity means he is the same person with the same high character in every situation.
Besides an obvious love for Christ, I think integrity is the key trait of a believer. What you believe is seen. You live out what you believe. You model Christlikeness at all times. That’s integrity.
Integrity may not cost you prize money, but standing as a person of Christlike integrity—even in the most insignificant of moments—can have an impact on those who see you. You make a difference.
And if no one sees you? You’ve still made an impact … on yourself. God honors a lifestyle of integrity.
- “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the perversity of the treacherous destroys them” (Prov. 11:3).
- “Doing what is righteous and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Prov. 21:3).
- “Better the poor person who lives with integrity than the rich one who distorts right and wrong” (Prov. 28:6).
Help me give a shout out to Bobby Jones. March 17 is his birthday. In his honor, I may play a round of golf—and do my best not to get frustrated with those little windmills.
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