Keeping Your Word

There are a few verses of scripture that my children have heard over and over. Most of them are not the verses you would expect. One is Matthew 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” This has often been quoted to remind them not to be selfish. The boys hurry to line up and get the first piece of cake. They start pushing and shoving and Michelle gives the boy who is last in line the first piece while quoting this verse. It is a little bit out of context but it does capture the idea of choosing to serve others over being selfish.

One other verse has probably been quoted even more than “the last will be first.” That verse is Matthew 5:37 “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” [Ask my children, they will confirm this verse is regularly used.] The context of this verse is very important. Jesus is preaching The Sermon on the Mount and he addresses the issue of making oaths. People of that day would vow to do something and then they would swear by some object. We might say “I will do this, I swear to God.” They would have said, “I will do this, I swear by heaven or by earth.” Same concept. You are trying to show you are taking this commitment seriously.

In response to this type of thinking Jesus says, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’. In other words, if you are going to be a follower of Jesus you need to simply keep your word. You do not need to swear by anything. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. If you don’t want to do it, then say no (and it is okay to say “no”).

This has been a lesson my wife and I decided we wanted our kids to learn. I suppose we could have told them “not to bear false witness” or “don’t lie,” but we chose to emphasize this statement by Jesus. The reason we have done this is because we have seen a lot of people in the Church who say “yes” to things and then do not keep their word. Their “yes” often means “maybe,” “sometime” or “no, but I don’t want to let you down right now.” Unfortunately a Christian’s “yes” is often worthless and we have hoped to change that with our children.

I believe that Christians should be the most reliable people in the world. They should do exactly what they say. Their words should be truthful. They should keep their commitments. They should say “yes” and it mean “yes.” They say “no” and they mean “no.”

Let me ask you. Does your word mean anything? Do people trust you to follow through or do they expect you to let them down? When you say you will pray for someone, do you really pray? Do you sign up and then show up? Do you say, “I will help” and then show up to help? If you say you will be a part, do you then participate? Is your word any good?

I don’t think these are small questions. The way I follow through on my words is not just a reflection of my organization skills but I reflection of my spiritual life.

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