Are You True to Your Word?
PEOPLE want their associates to be persons of their word. A husband is understandably irritated if his wife promises to meet him at six o’clock, but then unnecessarily keeps him waiting until 6:30. On the other hand, it is disturbing to a wife when her husband promises to take her somewhere but, when the time comes, she finds that he unconcernedly overlooked making the necessary preparations to fulfill his promise. One loses a certain amount of respect for persons who do not keep their word.
Even in small matters one should be true to his word. It may seem an unimportant offense to arrive late for an appointment, to neglect to return borrowed items, or in some other way fail to keep one’s word. Yet in these seemingly trivial matters one either builds up a reputation of being reliable or comes to be known as one whose word means very little.
Persons who are not true to their word often make themselves disliked by others. Remember the ancient Pharaoh who would not allow the Israelites led by Moses to leave Egypt. Repeatedly he gave his word that the Israelites could leave to worship Jehovah God, but then he did not keep his word, and so plagues were sent upon the nation by Jehovah. For example, when Egypt was plagued with thunder and hail, Pharaoh promised: “I am willing to send you away, and you will not delay any longer.” But after that plague had ceased, “he went sinning again and making his heart unresponsive, . . . and he did not send the sons of Israel away.” (Ex. 9:28, 34, 35) Again and again he made promises, and yet again and again he failed to keep them. The memory of that Pharaoh remains till today as an infamous example of a man who would not keep his word.
In our day too there are persons who fail to keep their word. Not all do so because of a bad heart, as in the case of Pharaoh. In many cases it is simply evidence of immaturity. They may, for example, agree to work for a firm that, because of the time required to train workers, asks them to stay for a specific period of time. When they give their word they no doubt have every intention of keeping it. However, what if a more enticing attraction turns up before their agreed time of service elapses? Will they pass up this opportunity, closing their eyes to the new attraction because of their previous commitment? Are they really persons of their word? If they are persons who maturely accept responsibility, they will keep their word.
Unfortunately some persons think more of pleasing themselves than of keeping their word. They are true to their word only up to a point—after which their promises carry less weight than the breath with which they are spoken. A person may accept a dinner invitation to the home of a humble family. But later, for the same evening, he may receive a more pretentious invitation from a family of means and position, perhaps from his boss. With some persons this is the point at which their word no longer carries any weight. Evidently they feel that the prospect of personal advantage invalidates their former commitment. Even Jesus cautioned against leaving one place of hospitality because of a better offer.—Luke 10:7.
Are you true to your word under similar situations? When you say something, do others have confidence that you will do what you say? If you think a moment, persons with different reputations in such matters probably will come to mind. For instance, a particular acquaintance may agree to visit you at eight o’clock Wednesday evening. You feel confident that he will be there, for you know him to be a person of his word. However, if another acquaintance promised the same thing, you might not even plan on his presence, at least not at the prearranged time. From past experience you know that his word means very little.
How fine it is to be known as a person of his word! The reputation is well worth the effort to obtain it. Among other things, it requires that you think before you speak, that you determine in advance what you are willing and able to do. You can ask yourself: Do I have other commitments? Can I be sure this far in advance? Have I considered my family and all other factors? Then when you promise, show maturity by remaining true to that promise even though other offers or circumstances arise that make it difficult to do so. It is true that unforeseen emergencies can cause exceptions—a press of important work, sickness or an accident, for instance. But surely those to whom you have given your word will understand, especially if you let them know as soon as possible so adjustments can be made.
If a person makes it a habit to keep his word to fellow humans, it is likely that he will not fail to keep his word to God. This is of utmost importance to a person who has made a dedication to do God’s will. In fact, it is a matter of life and death. God’s Word says: “In case you vow a vow to Jehovah your God, you must not be slow about paying it, because Jehovah your God will without fail require it of you, and it would indeed become a sin on your part.” “Do not allow your mouth to cause your flesh to sin.”—Deut. 23:21; Eccl. 5:6.
An ancient judge of Israel named Jephthah set a fine example in remaining true to his word. He promised that, if God would give him victory over the enemy Ammonites, he would give to God’s service at the sanctuary the first one to meet him on returning from victory. That one turned out to be his only child, his daughter. What was Jephthah’s reaction? Did he go back on his word? No, he kept that difficult promise. (Judg. 11:30-40) But do you think it was worth it? Definitely it was, for we find Jephthah’s name listed among those servants of God whose faith assured them of a resurrection and made them examples for Christians to imitate.—Heb. 11:32; 12:1.
If you would win the respect of both God and your fellowmen, you must do the same. Gain the reputation of being a person of your word. Think carefully before you make promises. Then when you do speak, by all means remain true to your word.