Yesterday as I skimmed through various facebook updates, I noticed a status post declaring an hour-long commitment to honesty. The person who posted it told their friends to message them a question–any question–because they couldn’t lie for the next hour.
As I reflected upon this post, I thought how starkly our generation contrasts biblical times. Throughout the Bible you hear mention of oaths–about 30 times. Deals could be sealed by removing your sandal and once you gave your word, you were bound. And Jesus Himself tells us our yes should be yes and our no should be no, meaning, our integrity should be such that people expect us to keep our word, whether we’ve made an oath or not.
Could that be said of you?
Today, an oath is a temporary statement of convenience. We almost expect promises and commitments to be broken. How easy those excuses come when our original agreement is deemed inconvenient! We’ve even found loop-holes to those set in legal stone. The result is an over all lack of trust.
Last fall I was asked to do some ghost writing for a ministry leader and as I spoke with others about this I was strongly warned to sign something upfront. Those I spoke with were concerned this person would weasel out at some point in the deal. (Which happened, unfortunately, two chapters before the end of the project.) A reminder that promises–commitments–have lost value even in the church. Instead of influencing our white-lie generation, we have allowed it to influence us.
But here’s the problem. If people can’t take us at our word, how can we expect them to believe the gospel we represent?
It’s time to raise the bar–to become people of integrity, in big and small matters. Because what we do harms our witness and impacts the next generation. Every time we break a commitment, we teach our children to do the same. Every time we find a loophole, we weaken the value of our spoken word.
Let me give an example. There’s a family we’ve been trying to minister to and after about six months of failed attempts, I’ve noticed a pattern. One that’s trickled down, invading the behavior of the children.
One day we invited the family to dinner. When the time for our engagement rolled around, we realized how inconvenient the engagement would be because we were in the midst of redoing our floors and had zero furniture in our house. But having had others make and break commitments, I knew the danger of backing out, so I arranged for a picnic instead and went to the grocery store to buy picnic foods. Then, the day of, I diced, chopped and sliced to get ready. About an hour before we were to meet, I received a phone call. Something came up and this family wouldn’t be able to meet us after all.
About a week later, after making arrangements for the girl to come home with us so we could take her to youth group, my daughter and I sat in the school parking lot wondering where she was. This was her fourth after school no-show. Fifteen minutes later, we gave up and drove home only to get a text a short while later, saying, “Oh, I forgot!”
Which led to an indepth discussion between my daughter and I. The mother’s failure to keep commitments had trained her daughter to do the same.
So how can we reverse this trend?
Matthew 5:37 says, All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
I believe this is saying, let your word stand on its own. Be known for your integrity. To do that:
1. Keep your word. Whether verbally spoken or legally agreed upon. Determine to be a person of integrity who can be trusted to do what you say you’re going to do.
2. Resist the temptation to tell white lies. Contrary to popular opinion, white lies do hurt. They taint our character and damage our witness.
I loved this quote by John Piper:
“Telling the truth is evidence that we know God and have faith in Him, because faith in the goodness and sovereignty of God conquers the deceitful craving for esteem and safety and possessions that causes us to distort the truth in order to gain a worldly advantage. With faith in a God like ours, there is no need to be deceitful. He knows what is best for us, and He will always give it.” Read the rest of the article here.