"I give you my word!"

by Gavin  

"I give you my word!"

Fans of the old TV series “24” will connect with this… Jack Bauer, the CTU Federal Agent, was renowned for the phrase, "I give you my word."  Fans of “24” will also know how that often didn’t count for much in the heat of the moment and difficult moral and ethical decisions needed to made.  That “word” – the unbreakable assurance and commitment – often got broken.

 

That raises a challenge for us as believers.  How firm should our “word” be?  Scripture seems clear that we should not be known as fickle people who vacillate and flip and flop on issues and commitments…

 

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37, ESV)

 

As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No.” (2 Corinthians 1:18, ESV)

 

Our men – the crazy “Okes” gang – bounced this around this morning at dawn, with coffee in hand – flowing from our discussions on integrity in Psalm 15.

 

So then, what did David mean when he wrote this?

 

“… who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” (Psalm 15:4c, ESV)

 

Remember the context is outlining patterns of integrity – things that a righteous person will do, flowing from his belief in God, as a normal course of daily life. 

 

Can I suggest the following then?  This person – this man of integrity – holds himself accountable to what he has said or promised.  He is accountable before God, and possibly even before other people, to keep to what had been promised, even if it was to his own cost.

 

This is someone who commits to something, but due to changed circumstances, would battle to keep the commitment.  To do so would involve sacrifice – there is some form of hurt, some form of loss, some negative that comes through keeping the commitment.  This could be time, finance, convenience, comfort etc.

 

But this person has a sense of honour before God, and seeks to keep that word.  The true man of integrity keeps his commitments, even if it does cost him in some way.

 

And in that he does not change!  That means that this person is not fickle.

 

That may well be related to the preceding financial issue – that of making a promise or commitment.  But maybe the principle here is a little broader as well… does it not mean that in life in general this person does not blow hot and cold? Does it not mean that they are consistent, and behave and act in ways that are not hypocritical or 2-faced?  Is this not a question of honour? Seeking to stay consistent in circumstances, but also not allowing varying circumstances to have a significant effect on attitudes and responses?

 

Hmmm… that’s fine on paper, but it applies to our lives in real and awkward ways… as we saw as the “Okes” chatted about that earlier…

 

How might this apply to these hypothetical scenarios?

 

  • You made a pledge to support a ministry with regular financial giving for a period of time, but your work situation changes, and you are retrenched and have a monthly struggle financially…
  • You committed to a local body of believers to love and serve and attend as part of that community (Hebrews 10:24-25 in action), but that commitment takes second place to family, sport and social stuff at a moments notice… church life gets put aside.
  • You committed to serve in a ministry area, and people rely on you, but that gets turfed when it becomes inconvenient…
  • You promised to fetch an old lady for an event and take her home, but then realised that it would intrude on Manchester United game scheduled for the same time… and you really want to watch that…
  • You assured the leader of your Fellowship group you’d be there at the meeting, but you got home a little late and feel tired (not thinking that maybe he is too, of course!)…
  • You’re scheduled for a turn to sing, serve tea, put out chairs, greet at the door, and then remember it is a family event on that day...

 

In those situations, varied as they might be, what do we do with David’s hallmark of integrity?  What is God saying here?

 

“… who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” (Psalm 15:4c, ESV)

 

Is there not a place to say, “Hey, I know it is not what I want to do, but I’ve committed, and so I’ll still do it… I’ll go, play, give and help even though it will cost me money, time, convenience and maybe clash with something else I really want to be at.”

 

This is not legalism at all… merely poking and prodding at applications of life that may well resonate with us in some way.  But we need God’s Word to do that, right?

 

Now, having said that, does this leave NO room at all for getting out of what we committed to, and where we should be?

 

Well, I think that there is a counterweight to this…

 

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” (Proverbs 6:1–5, ESV)

 

This text gives instruction to try and extricate yourself from situations where unwise promises and commitments have been made.  The context in financial, but I think the principle holds in a broader sense.  And I don’t see this as contrary to Psalm 15:4c!

 

If the situation is dire, and poverty might result, then go and talk and find a reasonable solution.  Engage with the other person.  Negotiate.  Try and find a compromise.  Free yourself from the commitment. This could be financial.  But it may also be a promise about time, involvement, a scheduled turn for something, an assurance of help… whatever!

 

BUT – this “extrication” is done in full and open discussion with the other party. There is no sense here of a quick clinical SMS, WhatsApp or e-mail… “Hey, sorry, I can’t help or can’t come anymore… Sorry for you!”  No, one goes to someone, talks to them, explains to them, and asks them for release from that commitment if it is at all possible.

 

But, in general, as far as possible, the sense of Psalm 15:4c is this – seek to honour the promises and commitments that have been made.

 

Don’t be like Jack Bauer and say, “I give you my word,” and then do a 180 degree turn on that commitment.  That is not integrity.  That is not God-honouring.  That’s flipping and flopping like the world around us.  It works for the “24” screenplay, but fails to work well in the life of a professing believer.  Let’s seek – for God’s sake and others who depend on us – to do what we said we would do – even if it hurts us in some way!

 

 

 

 

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