Do You Keep Your Word?
DID you ever have a person ask you for money and give you his solemn word that he would positively repay you on a specific day, then for some reason never keep his word? Have you a neighbor who borrows sugar, pots and pans and other items with a promise to return them later, yet never does? What about persons who are never punctual for appointments, never on time for work; people who somehow never keep their word? What do you think of such persons? Or are you one of them?
Invariably disappointment follows a broken promise. We feel let down, because we expect more of intelligent people. We want them to be persons of their word, and rightly so.
Man, by virtue of his being a creation of God, made in the image and likeness of his Creator, is expected to reflect the qualities of his Maker Jehovah, who is a God of truth, a God of his word. Of Jehovah Captain Joshua said: “Not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed.” “Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made.” (Josh. 23:14; 21:45) Of himself Jehovah stated: “My word that goes forth from my mouth . . . will not return to me without results.” (Isa. 55:11; 46:11) Therefore, we can count on God. He has built for himself a good reputation for dependability, because he is a God of his word. Can the same be said of you?
Jesus Christ called on men to imitate God, saying: “Let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No; for what is in excess of these is from the wicked one.” “You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:37, 48) Our being creatures of God is a compelling reason for us to be creatures of our word, for by our words we either honor or dishonor our Maker. We also harm ourselves if we do not keep our word.
When the United States Congressional investigators probed into the television quiz programs in 1959, they uncovered what was called one of the worst frauds perpetrated on the American public in recent years. The whole nation was hurt and bewildered by the disclosures. This because trusted men proved false to their word. Columbia Broadcasting System’s president, Frank Stanton, admitted that the integrity of all broadcasting had been challenged, and that “it is doubtful if the industry will ever completely recover from the loss of public confidence.” So great was the loss when men proved false to their word!
People who do not keep their word are untrustworthy. They lack forthrightness. Doubt and suspicion are born in their words. A cup of sugar not returned may be a small thing, but soon small things develop into big things. Little atoms make big mountains. Unkept promises breed irresponsibility, negligence and sloppy habits. Soon words lose meaning, contracts and solemn agreements are not honored. If a man does not honor a publicly announced engagement to get married, for example, can he be trusted to respect solemn engagements in God’s organization? Hardly. If there are no valid reasons for breaking an engagement, then that man is untrue to his word. He is not a man of his word, and therefore not worthy of responsibility.
God holds man to his word. “Whenever you vow a vow to God, do not hesitate to pay it, for there is no delight in the stupid ones. What you vow, pay.” (Eccl. 5:4) This can be a dedication vow, a marriage vow, or any vow made to God. In the marriage vow the couple promise, not only to accept each other as husband and wife, but also to love and cherish each other in accordance with the divine law as outlined in the Holy Scriptures. Are you keeping your word? The large number of divorces, separations, desertions and breach-of-promise suits is ample proof that many are not.
Local customs often make men untrue to their word. For an example, at a recent wedding, the minister waited. The bridegroom waited. The guests waited. The wedding was scheduled for three o’clock, but the bride did not show up until five! She could have been ready at three, but custom dictated that she be late. However, sometime later, when the husband was unavoidably delayed a few minutes from keeping an appointment with her, she felt irked. For pleasant relations, we should keep our word.
Some people have a custom of inviting people to dinner when they do not mean it. The guest is expected to decline the offer politely. However, one not acquainted with the custom may accept the invitation, much to the embarrassment of all present. Such show of “hospitality” is nothing but hypocrisy. It is not honest and it is unfair.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. “Let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.” Do not invite people to have a meal with you if you do not have food in the house. Do not ask them to spend the night if you do not mean it. Be persons of your word. Customs may be fine, but when they make a liar of you, then it is time for a change.
We expect children to be forthright with their words, but are parents when speaking to them? Do you promise to spank, and not spank? Do you “say but do not perform,” as Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees did? Does your Yes mean Yes and your No, No, to your child? Or are you more like the father who said to his son: “You positively, absolutely can’t go to the movie today and that’s final—unless your mother says you can”? Keep your word if you want your children to respect you.—Matt. 23:3.
Do not try to copy the world around you, for it has become schooled in the art of subtleties and circumlocutions. Keep your word. If, due to circumstances beyond your control, you see that you cannot, then immediately inform persons involved and explain why. Be truthful in your speech. By all means, keep your word.—2 Cor. 6:4-7.