We live in a time when a person’s word doesn’t mean what it used to. A promise is no longer a promise, and it most certainly is subject to circumstance and the changing of minds. Situational ethics is the order of the day. It’s a signpost along the highway of our societal decline.
My father taught me early in life that a man’s word is his bond, and that only we can destroy our good name. As naive as that may sound, when he said it, it was true. Back then a man’s handshake was of more value then a signed contract. Now, not even a contract ensures outcome. That’s why the court system is clogged with lawsuits based solely on trying to convince a judge or jury that a contract doesn’t say what it says.
And promises? Forget it. As divorce courts prove daily, a promise of a lifetime of devotion means less than nothing when one spouse decides they have found a new “soul mate,” or just decides to move on.
No matter where you look you’ll see that a person’s word is no longer of value, both to the person making the promise and the person receiving it. That may work for those of the secular humanism persuasion, but it cannot be a facet of the character of a believer in Jesus Christ.
I met a man in 1975. I was a young bank president and he owned one of the local car dealerships. He since has become like a family member for a variety of reasons. Perhaps most important, there is nothing he will tell you that’s not the truth. And if he gives you his word, he will keep it – period. I know that must sound strange, as we all know about car dealers, right? But to a Christian, it doesn’t matter what we do for a living. We obey God and follow His example – we keep our word.
“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” (1 John 2:5 NKJV)
In the early 1980s the country went through a recession that hit auto dealers exceptionally hard. Dealerships were closing their doors for good on a daily basis. It was brutal. My friend’s dealership was no exception. Through no fault of his own, he was forced to file bankruptcy, both business and personal.
His combined bankruptcies totaled one million, four hundred thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money even today. But it was not his concern as the bankruptcies left him free and clear of the obligations – at least legally.
Within days after “getting out from under,” my friend came to the house to discuss paying back all those who lost money in his bankruptcy. He knew he had no choice but to file bankruptcy, but he also knew he had to pay back the money that had been loaned to him. The list of creditors was long. There were individuals and companies alike.
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)
Business wise, this was the worst decision he could make, as it was going to make it almost impossible to start over. But he was, to his credit, determined. He knew he wasn’t obligated by man’s law to repay the waived debts, but he was obligated by his faith.
Making a long story short, he rebuilt his business within ten years. By that point he had also paid back the one million, four hundred thousand dollars he owed to people who had no expectation they would ever see a dime of their loss. In the process my friend proclaimed by his actions who he really is – a Christian.
“Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:20)
There is more to the story. In his early fifties, my friend, who is a Type 1 diabetic, had quadruple bypass surgery. Being told there was little chance of success, we who loved him prayed and prayed and prayed. In answer to our prayers, the operation was a success. Even the surgeon admitted he found the results miraculous. Ten years later my friend began having chest pains again. After many tests he was told they couldn’t operate, and there was nothing else that could be done. He was told he might have a year or two.
Instead of giving up, my friend trusted God and went back to work. He still works twelve/fourteen hour days. He takes care of his wife of 58 years. He’s now seventy-eight.
Some would say it’s just happenstance or luck that he’s still alive. Those of faith know better. We know we are witnessing God keeping His word just as He asks us to keep ours.
“So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” (1 Kings 3:14)