Questions From Readers
● Is it showing lack of trust for a dedicated Christian to make a written contract covering a business dealing with another Christian?—U.S.A.
No, for putting business matters in writing can be a kindness and a protection for all concerned. It can prevent many misunderstandings later.
A written contract can prevent inadvertent oversights due to a lack of clarity in verbal agreements. As in the case of other people, the dedicated Christian must care for many details from day to day. Then, too, problems arise that demand his attention. Obviously he cannot remember everything. Were he to rely completely on his memory, he, despite the best of intentions, likely would forget some obligations or have doubts as to whether he fulfilled them. A verbal agreement gives little opportunity for double-checking matters. And, if it is vague, those making the verbal agreement may honestly share different views as to what is required.
A written contract can also serve as an aid in heeding the Bible’s admonition: “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another.” (Rom. 13:8) Manifestly, if a person inadvertently forgot a certain obligation, he would not be conscious of the need to fulfill it. And his inadvertent failure could lead to hard feelings, especially if the other party began thinking that his Christian brother was selfish and undependable.
Another factor that makes written contracts advisable is the uncertainty of human life. As the wise writer of Ecclesiastes observed: “Time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” (Eccl. 9:11) It is indeed wise to have a written agreement so that, if necessary, a person can prove that he is entitled to payment or services rather than to have to suffer serious loss because there are no living witnesses to verify his claim.
The Scriptures definitely approve making written contracts. For example, Jehovah’s prophet Jeremiah, at divine direction, bought a field from the son of his paternal uncle. The money for the purchase was weighed out in the presence of witnesses. When the money was paid, two deeds, presumably identical, were drawn up according to the existing legal regulations. One deed was left open, apparently so that it could be readily consulted by interested parties. The other deed was signed by witnesses and sealed. Hence, if the authenticity of the unsealed deed were ever to be called into question, the sealed deed could be opened and compared with the unsealed one. The whole transaction was public, taking place “before the eyes of all the Jews who were sitting in the Courtyard of the Guard.” Both deeds were thereafter placed in a container for safekeeping. (Jer. 32:6-14) Thus, years later, proof would have been available that everything had been handled properly.
So, rather than giving evidence of lack of trust, the making of written agreements can be an indication of sincere desire to carry out one’s obligations.