Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a source of controversy in the West for quite some time now. However, that controversy has taken on a more substantive form in recent days. Last week, a British investigation into the murder of former Russian Federal Security Service agent Alexander Litvinenko found that Putin was likely aware of, if not responsible for, the decision to fatally poison the ex-spy back in 2006. And on Monday, the BBC released a story in which a U.S. treasury official, Adam Szubin, called the Russian President “a picture of corruption.”
Szubin stated: “We’ve seen him enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalizing those who he doesn’t view as friends using state assets. Whether that’s Russia’s energy wealth, whether it’s other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t.”
The BBC story goes on to describe how a secret CIA report from 2007 listed Putin’s personal wealth at roughly $40 billion; quite a feat considering his official salary is about $110,000 a year. While Putin called such allegations “rubbish,” among other things, the whispers of a vast personal fortune and rampant corruption have been around for years and are only growing louder.
However, until his corruption begins to have a negative impact on the Russian people, or at least until they are made aware of that impact, there is little reason for Putin to stop. The most recent polls show him with a fairly consistent eighty percent approval rating and, even with the recent declines in the Russian economy, that is not likely to change any time soon. His people love him, or at least the version portrayed by Russian news, so he is free to continue acting with relatively little accountability.
While none of us are likely in the business of defrauding a nation for personal gain, the temptation to do the wrong thing because we can get away with it is something to which we can all relate. Scripture is clear that such consequence-free decisions are ultimately a myth. We will all be called before God’s throne to give an account of ourselves (Romans 14:12). What we choose to do in those moments of perceived freedom can have a defining role on the development of our character.
Building that character in the private moments of our lives is essential to a strong witness because eventually, what we do in secret will be brought into the open (Luke 8:17). When that happens, the worse of your two personas is the one people are most likely to assume is the real you. There is very little benefit of the doubt given to those whose private morals fail to match those espoused in public.
While that is important for all people to keep in mind, it is doubly so for the Christian as people often look at us to judge the character of our God. If they can’t trust our authenticity, they are not going to trust the Lord’s. If they question our motives, they will question his as well. And if they doubt our integrity, they will doubt God’s as well.
Your life may be the only gospel a person ever reads. If so, will it draw them to Christ or push them away? Let that question guide what your actions today so that they will not diminish your witness tomorrow. One of the highest compliments a Christian can be paid is to be called a person of integrity. Can that be said of you?