With the young David now increasing in popularity, King Saul recognizes the threat he poses to his rule, and he determines to eliminate the young warrior. Saul and his men set out to find and kill David; David gathers his men and flees. For weeks the two parties keep zig-zagging around the desert, chasing and running, hiding and escaping. At one point David and his men hide in a cave.
Saul, who is nearby, suddenly needs to go to the bathroom. He heads up to a remote cave to take care of his business. Of all the possible places he could relieve himself, Saul chooses the very cave in which David is hiding!
David’s men urge him to take advantage of Saul’s vulnerability and kill him. He recoils from the suggestion, but then tiptoes stealthily toward Saul and cuts off a portion of his robe. Saul finishes his business and leaves the cave, and David follows him. Outside, he hollers Saul’s name and shows him the patch of cloth. It’s proof that he is an honorable man. David forgoes the opportunity to become king and chooses integrity instead.
In this encounter, David has the opportunity to eliminate Saul and claim the throne of Israel. But the cost to his integrity would have been too great. David refuses to betray his conscience and his values by stooping low just to win. Nor will he claim that the end justifies the means. He can never know what the end will be, or if that will ever be “the end.” The means are all that he can control. David chooses an uncertain future with his integrity intact over a sure victory that would cost him his soul.
In his actions and words, David demonstrates a supreme quality for leadership: integrity.
David’s decision invites us to consider how we’ve treated our opponents in conflicts past or present. Have you ever felt pressured to act against your better judgment? Have you done so and “won ugly”? How do you feel about that now?
Conversely, have you ever passed up a chance to win for the sake of your conscience? Maybe you missed getting something you wanted by refusing to pay the moral price. Or perhaps an unexpected result was more than you could have hoped for! What happened?
Alan Simpson, a former U. S. senator from Wyoming, is widely admired for his strength of character. His words are worth contemplating today:
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters.
If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
David—in his encounter with Saul in the cave, at least—shows us a leader unafraid to embrace the virtue of integrity. He will not always remember that. But in this instance, standing before Saul, he lives and speaks with integrity.
Nothing else matters.
For more thought-provoking stories on King David and his implications for our leading with character, click here to receive a copy of 30 Days With King David: On Leadership.