It used to be said that an Englishman’s Word was his bond. Regrettably we might not be able to say that so easily today. However, it should still be true that a Christian’s Word is his/her bond. As we consider this issue of the words that we say, we want to look at two particular issues; truth and reliability.
In Proverbs 6:16-19 we learn that of the seven things the LORD hates and two are to do with the wrong use of the tongue. These are a lying tongue and a false witness who speaks lies. We are called upon to speak the truth.
We live in a culture where lies are seen as acceptable. In the office environment if someone does not want to take a phone call they are always in a meeting; whether this is a lie or not does not seem to bother people. Multitudes of examples could be drawn from other environments. There is an epidemic of lying in our society. Accordingly we should be completely counter-cultural as we seek to speak and uphold the truth.
This brings us to our LORD’S teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. The culture at that time was to swear oaths to back up what you said (see Matt. 5:33-37). It seems that the more important the thing you swore by then the more likely your statement was to be true. The LORD renders this approach null and void when he says that the Christian should let your `Yes’ be `Yes,’ and your `No,’ `No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one (Matt:5:37). We should never need to back up our statements with oath taking or whatever; we must be careful always to tell the truth. This is the kingdom standard for God’s people.
Not only should we be truthful people, but we should also be reliable people. If we promise to do something or be somewhere at a certain time then we should endeavor, as much as lies within us, to fulfill our commitment. In demonstrating this reliability we are showing forth the fruit of the Spirit. This is because in Galatians 5:22 one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness which includes the idea of performing our undertakings.
Of course though there will be times when we are prevented by circumstances from keeping an appointment. For example, a delay in traffic might prevent us from getting somewhere on time. In such a circumstances we should be careful to phone ahead to alert anyone who may be affected by this. Mobile phones have made it far easier for us to accomplish this.
This leads us to the importance though, of making sure that we only make commitments when we have truly considered beforehand whether or not it is feasible for us to keep them. To not do this is really an example of selfishness. This is because if we make rash statements about what we will do with no real determination to keep them then the failure to keep then inevitably leads to someone else being harmed. The second great commandment is You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:39). We are called to be selfless people and not selfish people. Let us then make sure we do not abuse others by making rash promises.
Whereupon we mush consider our Saviour who, in the deliberations of the heavenly sanctuary, made the commitment to perform the will of God by giving His life for His people (see Hebrews 10:1-10). And he fulfilled every aspect of what he determined for Himself to do. No rash promises here and how we thank God that He did what He set out to do for us.
Nevertheless, sometimes we will fail and we will let people down. In such circumstances we should be quick to make contact with anyone who has been affected by our failure to keep our word. We should make explanation and apologies as necessary. Remember, in this context, the words of the apostle Paul to the Philippians in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil. 2:3b-4). Always our attitude should be that others are more important than ourselves.
At this point we might wonder whether we are at liberty to break our word. Psalm 15 tells us of the godly man who is able to approach the LORD. One characteristic of this godly man is that he swears to his own hurt and does not change (v4b). Keeping our Word is more important than guaranteeing ourselves a good reputation or pleasant circumstances. The great Christian of the nineteenth century CH Spurgeon suffered much in his defense of the scriptures partly because he refused to reveal certain information he had agreed with another man should not be released.
As Christians then we should be truthful and reliable people. Our God is truthful and reliable; we should seek to emulate Him. In fact, as God’s people we should have the likeness of our Father in our lives.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of October 2005)