“I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond, that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth.” John Rockefeller
My dad has said a number of times, “A man of honor, his word is his oath.” Aside from the fact that it is a matter of integrity — a principle my dad espouses because he wants to please God — this is one of his defining traits as a person. He has often encouraged my siblings and I to be the same way. “If you say you will do something, do it.”
The Bible says, Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 (NLT)
Yesterday, I was blessed to experience my dad’s dependability again. Earlier in the day, I asked him if I could take a photograph of him with a birthday greeting sign for someone in our church who had requested it. He was busy preparing a message for Sunday Worship, but he said I could. However, he was in casual house clothes and asked if I could wait until he put on a decent shirt. Since I had to accompany my mom to meet with some interior designers, my dad said we could take the photo when we saw each other again in the afternoon. In light of everything he had to do, the photograph really wasn’t major but he knew it was important to me.
I went off to the meeting with my mom. Half way through it, I received a call from my dad. He explained to me that he could still pass by to meet me but he also needed to go to the church office to finalize his Sunday message. Basically, he was giving me the option to decide. If I really wanted him to meet me, he would, just so I could take his photo. I knew it was more of a priority for him to go the church office so I said, “Dad, go on ahead to the office. I will just talk to your assistant to take the photo.” And sure enough, within 2 hours, the photo was emailed to me. I got a text message from my dad, “Sent the picture already.” I texted him back, “You are the best, Dad. You are so reliable and thoughtful. Love you.” My dad inconvenienced himself to keep his word to me.
Whether he makes a big or small commitment, my dad binds himself to it and treats it as sacred. I have always admired him for this, especially since it is very cultural in the Philippines to make statements that people never quite follow through with.
People often say “I will be there” but end up flaking out or canceling at the last minute. Or, “I will deliver by such and such date” but expectations are not managed. Sometimes I can be this way, too! It’s a rare Filipino who can stick to an agreed time or even a time-table.
We can think of it as a cultural phenomenon but let’s call it what it is. A person who does not keep his or her word is a liar. When I tell my kids, I will be home by 3 PM but I am an hour late, I told a lie. When I tell my husband, I will get your request done by today but fail to do so and make excuses when he asks me about it, I am a liar trying to look like a good person.
I want to grow in this area. I want to copy my dad’s example. His dependability has been a blessing and I want my kids to see the same faithfulness in me. But he has also modeled another trait that I have picked up on – be wise about what you commit to.
The Bible says to be very careful when you make a vow. If you are not sure that you can keep a promise or follow through with a statement you have made, then manage expectations sooner than later. Or better yet, just keep quiet.
I remember an incident where my dad asked me to edit a paper for him and I told him I would. After weeks, I had left the paper alone and got busy with other concerns. One day he called me about it thinking that I had already looked through it. I was embarrassed to say that I had not edited it. And he told me, “Next time, if you can’t do it then let me know rather than say you can but won’t get it done.” He wasn’t angry but he was disappointed. For a split second I thought of several excuses to rationalize my failure but instead, I apologized and used that situation as a learning experience. Speak less, do more.
The principle of keeping one’s word makes me think about God as a father. Imagine what it would be like if God did not keep his promises? What if he lured us with all kinds of enticing statements about his goodness and didn’t live up to the impression he painted of himself? What if we staked our lives on false hopes about forgiveness, salvation, or eternity? Where would we anchor our faith if we could not know with certainty that God’s word is true?
Thankfully, the Bible tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Sometimes, we aren’t patient enough to wait for the Lord to fulfill his promises. We interpret his ability and commitment to do so by circumstances or by our limited understanding of who he is. Yet, we can be confident that there is no guessing with God. The truth he has presented in his word will never fail. He is the most reliable promise-keeper we will ever know. “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.“ (1 Kings 8:56 NASB)
May the Lord make me a Christ-like promise-maker and promise-keeper and not allow me to become a “cultural” promise-maker and promise-keeper!