FIRST-PERSON: Keeping one’s word
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)--Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). That means truth is very important, especially for those of us who are Christians.
We often must decide whether we will handle money honestly in our business and daily lives. Did you tell the shopkeeper when he or she gave more change than what you should have received? Have you ever sold something and been tempted not to tell the whole truth, because you might have lost the sale?
You probably made a choice today about truth and honesty. Sometimes these decisions are difficult, because everyone around us seems to be acting dishonestly. There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that communicate the Lord’s desire for us to be completely honest.
For example, Leviticus 19:11 says, “You must not steal. You must not act deceptively or lie to one another.” And Proverbs 6:16-17 says, “The Lord hates ... a lying tongue.”
It is especially important for leaders to be honest, because leaders influence those under them. Parents, as leaders in their homes, must be good examples of honesty to their children. The influence of a dishonest leader produces dishonest followers. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:12, “If a ruler listens to lies, all his servants will be wicked.”
So, church leaders, business owners and parents must set the example of honesty. If a leader isn’t honest, how can we expect those under his or her authority to live honestly?
Many Christians are unable to claim God’s promises in their lives, because they aren’t willing to meet His prerequisites. First John 3:21-22 explains that God answers our prayers when we do the things that are pleasing in His sight and keep His commandments.
Few scriptural principles are clearer than that of honesty in such things as keeping our vows –- literally keeping our word both to God and to others. Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, “Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it.” The term appears many places in the Bible and refers to a promise or pledge. The emphasis is that such promises are binding and when we give our word to do something, we are obligated to do it!
Jesus clearly indicates that everyone will be accountable for their words and actions on Judgment Day. “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).
Unfortunately, our society is built on the expectation that few people will keep their word. Often a vow is seen as nothing more than something made under one set of circumstances and then broken under another. Before you agree to any terms, carefully consider all consequences associated with that commitment.
Often, people keep the vows that are to their advantage and break those that are not. For example: a product is purchased, but when that product loses its value or use to the individual, they ignore their vow to pay a creditor. A common attitude is, “If my marriage does not succeed as I want it to, I can always get a divorce.” The original conditions under which promises are made may change, and one partner may begin to think he or she did not get a good arrangement. But Jesus said that broken vows will be accounted for on Judgment Day.
In a world of situational ethics, even many of God’s people have lost the concept of absolutes when it comes to keeping their word. In the past, vows were a commitment of a person’s honor and handshakes often sealed agreements. Honorable people wouldn’t default even if it cost them material wealth, because their reputations were far more important than material gain.
Honesty is more than simply not telling lies; it includes being reliable to fulfill promises made –- that’s loyalty. For Christians, loyalty is not simply something directed to their families or to customers. Our loyalty as Christians is to be to God and His Word.
Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?” Christian, that trustworthy person should be you. If loyalty to God is sustained, then loyalty to others will be a natural part of your life, and you’ll be known as a trustworthy man or woman.
A Christian who backs down on vows made in good faith has forgotten whom he or she is serving. Jesus said, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money” (Matthew 6:24).
When you dishonor agreements, vows or promises in order to gain some advantage, you become the real loser, because whatever may have been gained will never replace your lost integrity.
If you honor God by being totally honest, you may experience some losses and even be misused by others, at least in the short run. However, God compensates losses in many ways for those who keep their vows –- not the least of which is His supernatural peace.
Remember that Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous is gracious and giving.”
If you truly trust God, then defend that trust by honoring your vows –- regardless! Make it a practice to pray before you commit to anything, and consider all the problems that could arise. As a Christian you are bound by the words of your mouth, so be careful about what you promise, and keep your word.
God’s guidebook for Christians living in this world is the Bible, and in Luke 16:11 God says that if we will not respond correctly with such a relatively trivial thing as money, why should He entrust us with any greater possessions?
God places us in this world not only to witness to the unsaved, but also to refine our relationship with Him. And the way you handle money and treat others where a profit or loss is concerned, exposes a clear reflection of your value system, and your relationship with God.
Others may take advantage of your honesty, because often there is a price to be paid for following Christ. But remember, there also is great reward for doing so. Every Christian needs to come to the place where the approval of God is more important than the riches of the world. Only then will the full measure of the peace and power of God be experienced. “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
How about you? Do others know you as an honest person that they can depend on, because you are a person of integrity? Evaluate the eternal impact you are having on those around you.
Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries led by Dayton merged with Christian Financial Concepts led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the Web at www.crown.org.