By Rev SEIK PITOI
I WILL never forget the look on my friend Bevan’s face. He looked hurt and angry.
Just one glance and I knew why. I had made a commitment to pick him up at a certain location and at a certain time. We had both agreed to that arrangement. But after picking up my dad’s car, I ended up hanging out with other friends and forgot all about Bevan.
He had cancelled some appointments to wait for me. He surely had the right to be upset. I felt embarrassed that I had not kept my word, and
I quietly apologised to him, explaining what had happened. Soon, all was forgiven and we enjoyed the rest of the night out with our other mates.
That was many years ago when I was in secular employment and still ‘outside the Christian fence’, as it were! Yet, the lesson from that small encounter with my late friend, Bevan, stayed with me. I had been told by my father that a person was only as good as his word, and that when I made a commitment to do something, I should do it. To fail to do so made me an untrustworthy person.
Many years later, as a servant of God today,
I am surprised to find that this is also a big problem among God’s people. I realise that countless relationships have been broken and trouble has ensued simply because of one thing –God’s people cannot keep their word! I found myself in a similar situation some time ago, but this time, I was on the receiving end. My friend on this occasion was a very respectable and powerful man of God. As I waited for him to arrive, I began to think back to the day I made that commitment to Bevan and failed to keep it. I was not a Christian then but I still felt bad. Would this gentleman feel bad about not keeping our appointment? I thought about the other engagements I had cancelled, and even turned down a trip with my wife in order to make time available for this.
But after 45 minutes of waiting, and having no response to my numerous telephone calls and text messages, I decided to leave. I had been stood up again.
The above scenario has been replayed numerous times. Very rarely will I get a message apologising for not coming. Usually when I get through some hours later, they will tell me how busy they were, but will
somehow avoid saying sorry. One person even rescheduled three times, giving the venue, date and time. On all those occasions, he still failed to keep his word.
Granted, some of the above were not very critical, but there were some engagements that were quite important. Regardless of how important or unimportant it was, the fact is a commitment was made and not kept. I can say I am a bit worried that many of us who profess to be Christians, fail to be honest and truthful.
I believe this is one reason why many folks reject anything to do with church or matters of faith. One person told me recently that the hypocrisy he sees in many church leaders is the very reason why he keeps his distance from the church. Now, my pastoral mind will move into the apologetic gear and start banging out Scriptures that can argue otherwise, but sometimes it’s good to take the criticism and analyse ourselves. Is there a point in what the man said? I think there is.
In the early days, a Christian was taught the importance of keeping his word. If you told someone you were going to do something, you just did it. You didn’t make excuses. You just did it. If something occurred that prevented you from keeping your word, you called or contacted the person you gave your word to and explained that you could not do as promised.
In such a case both parties understood, and all was forgiven. The word was not broken.
Recently, I had to call a missionary sister to explain that I was not able to keep a commitment I had made to her last year as my circumstances had since changed. She thanked me for notifying her. Many people
would mock this exchange, but not those who respect integrity.Integrity is important because keeping your word is important. When you give your word but fail to follow through, and fail to
contact those who you have given your word to, then you break trust. Many people do not trust liars. And neither does God.
Why is it so important for us to practice
truth? Because we live in an evil world(1 John 5: 19) that is full of lies. We as Christians are supposed to be different from the world. A Christian businessman should be able to shake hands over a deal and keep his word, even before the lawyers have drawn up the contract. Christian husbands and wives should tell the truth to each other and not give excuses. The church laity and clergy should tell the truth to each other openly, rather than trying to prove who is more important. Today, a politician can look squarely into the face of his constituent and say all the right words, only to change his mind the next day. The teacher will reduce the grades on a student’s report card while she increases the grades on another because the latter’s parents gave her some money. Not to mention the policeman who takes bribes and lets the offenders run free.
These and similar cases tell us that we are living in a word that is influenced by the devil, who has the title of “father of all lies” (John 8:44). Telling lies is his nature. If telling lies is something we find easy to do, even in failing to keep our word, we need to check if we truly are God’s people. God is only as good as His word. God is not a liar (Numbers 23:19), He is the embodiment of Truth (John 14:6; 1 Kings 17:
24; John 17:17), and is trustworthy. That is why we can trust His words of truth in the Bible.
Likewise, being His people, we too need to be people who tell the truth and keep our word. We need to change the trend. Let’s start by telling the truth at work. Make a commitment, keep your commitment – to everyone you make it to, not just to the boss. In church, don’t just sing about the truth, live it. In our families, tell the truth to our children. Don’t promise them something and break your word later.
Husbands, tell the truth to your wives, and vice versa – your kids are watching. Apologise to them when you fail them. This will teach them to do the same when they grow up.
Finally, the Book of Revelation tells us about those who are to be banished forever, outside of the city of God. Among the murderers, immoral people and sorcerers, the last category of people are “those who practice falsehood”.
I suppose that includes those who tell lies and fail to keep their word.
We should not be motivated by fear of punishment as stated above, rather, we should be people who keep their word because we serve a God who keeps His too. God is good because He keeps His word. How good is your word? Rev.
Seik Pitoi is a regular contributor
By Rev SEIK PITOI