O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
….[He] who swears to his own hurt and does not change; —Psalm 15:1,4
Very few people like dishonesty. We all remember the kid who, when we were playing games, kept changing the rules to make sure he won. Even those who lie and cheat do not like to be lied to or cheated themselves. It hurts, and can ruin lives.
Why then do so many people backtrack on their word?
The reason is the cost. Life is often unpredictable. A promise we made did not seem difficult when we made it – a contract to build a house, make a loan payment, to deliver a product by a certain date—until circumstances change. Even personal promises like the vows to be loyal to our wives/husbands – when we take the oaths for richer or poorer, in sickness and health; we have in our minds – richer and in health.
As a result, it can be terrifying for a person of integrity to make a promise.
My first job out of college, I was an operations manager for a small distribution company. Logistics was a component of my work, getting shipments delivered and expedited for customers. Air freight was the most stressful – because of the enormous cost. If someone was willing to pay for that kind of rush, that meant there was a lot at stake. On one such project I arranged delivery for two pallets—over 2,000 lbs., via overnight airfreight to a customer in Hawaii. However, I sent it to their billing address on Oahu, and the project was in Maui. That particular flub cost my boss, Mike, a couple thousand dollars to fix. He could have fired me. Another job or place I might have had my pay docked to cover the cost. Instead, Mike kept his word even though it hurt. I learned what keeping your word can cost.
Though we should aspire for integrity, when we are honest, we know we fall short. There is only One who always keeps His Word—even when it hurts horrifically—God. It is the answer to the dilemma at the center of the universe: God loves mankind, and He is just. How can a loving God be gracious to unjust people? If He judged everyone according to their merit, no one would survive. If He just let things go (say for example to forgive a dad who walks out on his family) it would make righteousness look unimportant and devalued. God solved this mystery by punishing unrighteousness in His own Son, who became a willing sacrifice on the cross. God became both the ‘just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.’ (Rom 3:27) God did the costly thing in giving up His own Son for our sake.
When we swear to our own hurt in business or beyond, we show our confidence that ‘The LORD has much more to give you than this’ (2 Chronicles 25:9, NASB). When circumstances turn against us, let’s keep our word, in faith that our God can care for us.