Have you ever been let down by someone who promised you something, and failed to deliver? I’m sure we all have a story like this. I, personally, have been hurt more times than I can count, and I have let more people down than I care to admit. Unfortunately, we live in a time where keeping your word doesn’t seem to mean as much as it used to. We make promises, and then they’re forgotten or betrayed, and it becomes harder and harder to trust people. The truth is, it hurts when we think we can trust someone, and they prove us wrong. It hurts when someone promises you something, and then they break that promise, especially when it’s someone we care about. I’m not innocent in this, by any means. I’ve broken promises to myself and to others, and it’s not something I’m proud of. Anyone who has kids has probably felt like a failure to their children at some point in their lives. That look on your kid’s face when you’ve let them down might be the worst thing on earth, isn’t it?
This week, we are continuing to walk through our series on the Sermon on the Mount, and we’re going to be talking about oaths. Ecclesiastes 5:7 (NLT) says “Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.” The Bible talks about oaths quite a bit, and Jesus gives us some very good advice in this sermon. Matthew 5:33 – 36 (NCV) says “You have heard it said to our people long ago, ‘Don’t break your promises, but keep the promises you make to the Lord.’ But I tell you, never swear an oath. Don’t swear an oath using the name of heaven, because heaven is God’s throne. Don’t swear an oath using the name of the earth, because the earth belongs to God. Don’t swear an oath using the name of Jerusalem, because that is the city of the great King. Don’t even swear by your own head, because you cannot make one hair on your head become white or black. Say only yes if you mean yes, and no if you mean no. If you say more than yes or no, it is from the Evil One.” My first point is this:
1. Don’t Say Things You Don’t Mean
Now, I know this seems like common sense, right? Most of us were taught from an early age not to say things that we didn’t mean, yet how many of us struggle with this on a daily basis? We get frustrated or hurt, and we lash out at people, or we break our promises by walking away from our responsibilities. Proverbs 11:3 (NCV) says “Good people will be guided by honesty; dishonesty will destroy those who are not trustworthy.” I am a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and there’s a line in the movie for the Fellowship of the Ring that I think displays keeping your word better than any other example I could give you. It’s at the end of the movie, and Frodo has abandoned the Fellowship to go out on his own to Mordor when Sam comes running down the shore, only to find Frodo halfway across the river in one of the boats. Sam immediately runs out into the water, even though he knows he can’t swim. He gets out to the deepest part, and he begins to drown until Frodo grabs his hand and pulls him into the boat. Then, Sam says something profound, which is “I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise. ‘Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee.’ And I don’t mean to.” Now, that’s just a line in a movie, but it can teach us a lot about keeping our word, and even being willing to go to the ends of the earth (or Middle Earth, in this case) to do what we said we would do. Proverbs 25:14 (NLT) says “A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” This brings me to my second point.
2. Broken Trust Is Not Easy To Regain
JFK said “I would rather be accused of breaking precedents than breaking promises.” The main reason it’s so important for us to keep our promises is because breaking them also breaks trust. Trust is not something that is easily given, but once it’s broken, it becomes even harder to gain back. As a dad, I’ve admittedly done a lot to let my daughter down, and it’s the worst feeling in the world. Because of that, I’ve had to suffer some consequences with her, and I’ve had to do a lot of work to gain her trust back. It’s very difficult to gain someone’s trust back once it’s broken, and in many cases, that trust is never able to be regained. When you find yourself with trust broken, it’s hard to overcome. This brings me to my final point.
3. Your Words Matter
1 John 2:5 (ESV) says “But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him.” No matter what walk of life you find yourself in, remember that the things that you say matter. There is always someone looking at you, paying attention to you, and counting on you to do what you say you’re going to do. For some of us, it’s our kids. For some, our spouses. For others, it may be your coworkers, teammates, or even men and women who serve under you. It’s your responsibility to do what you say you’re going to. That’s called integrity.
We thank You that You always keep Your word to us, and that we can trust that You are a loving God who always has our best interests at heart. Lord, thank You for giving Your Son for us, so that we may live in the freedom that comes from knowing You. Be with all of those this week who are hurting, whether it be because someone broke their promise to them, or because they broke their promises to someone else. Help them to find healing in Your presence, Lord. It’s in Your name we pray.