Suggested Reading: Proverbs 6:1-5
Throughout the book of Proverbs, the author repeats the folly of putting up security for another’s debt. This is the same as making a promise before considering the consequences. When we speak before we think and commit ourselves before carefully considering the implications of our commitment, we are trapping ourselves by our own words. In times past, a man’s word was his honour. Sadly, this has since changed dramatically. Some even have a problem with making a promised phone call. People fail to keep their promises without blinking an eye.
A Christian shares a different view on this, however. A follower of Christ takes his promises very seriously because Jesus instructed those who follow Him to let their “Yes,” be “Yes” and their “No,” “no”. Anything else, He says, comes from the evil one. “Anything else” may include trying to justify why we should weasel our way out of a promise. We have a responsibility to keep our word whether we said yes or no. The reality is that some people tend to take their own promises lightly and yet claim to follow Christ. But Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” No matter how insignificant the promise may seem to us, someone else is measuring us by our ability to keep our word and these many little broken promises all add up into making our Christian witness a powerless one. It is even more important that we keep our promises to those closest to us. How many broken children’s hearts are there not because a parent took his promises to his child lightly and repeatedly failed to keep them?
There may, however, be times when we find ourselves in an impossible situation because we committed ourselves before giving careful thought to what we are letting ourselves in for. In the event that we have fallen into the hands of another person because we made a commitment we can no longer keep, Solomon offers the following advice:
- Go speak to the person
- Humble yourself; don’t go with a high-minded and defensive attitude. Admit that you made the promise rashly without giving it the necessary thought
- Explain your situation to your neighbour. Be clear about the reasons you can no longer keep your promise. Don’t use lies to achieve a good outcome. Only the truth will set you free. Telling lies will catch up with you sooner or later and then the outcome may be worse. There’s always a pay-back for lies –sometimes in an altogether different situation than the one in which you used a lie to get ahead.
- Don’t procrastinate in doing this; “Allow no sleep to your eyes,” says Solomon, until you’ve gone to speak to the person.
- What Jesus taught ties in with these words of Solomon: He taught us to face the person to whom we are indebted and to come to an agreement with him as soon as possible (see Matthew 5:25-26). Pulling off a disappearing act or pretending amnesia around the situation will only worsen the situation and delay the inevitable.
By following these words of advice, we may be able to free ourselves from the obligation in a Biblical and God-honouring way. This is, however, not an excuse to get out of something when you are in a position to keep your commitments. Doing that will not honour God and when you are found out, your reputation may be ruined forever. Besides, the next time you are really in trouble, people will be less inclined to believe you.
When we follow this advice, we will be able to face the person should we meet him in the road. By avoiding our debtor and devising all sorts of clever tricks to get out of the commitment in dishonest ways, we will forever be looking over our shoulder. We will be burdened by our guilty conscience which may lead to irrational decisions and paranoid behaviour. Shame and disgrace will become a part of our name. Worst, perhaps, is that we won’t tarnish only our own names, but the names of our parents, siblings and children. Being known as someone who cannot keep his promises, closes many doors not only for yourself, but perhaps even for your children after you. The negative effects may go further into the future than we may think. It takes humility to openly admit a mistake, but there is freedom found in being honest. Put your situation before the person plainly and walk about with a clear conscience.
- Proverbs 2:16-19 (samisaacson.wordpress.com)
- Why do Christians see Jesus as the fulfillment of all God’s promises (wiki.answers.com)
- You Must Be Born Again (seashoremary.wordpress.com)
- Lesser known characters :: Ethan (thepauls.wordpress.com)