A prominent citizen and I shook hands on a deal to buy my house, as I was preparing to be transferred to another area. A smile of relief was on my face. But my relief disappeared a few weeks later when I found that nothing had been done to keep our deal. By that time, I had already been transferred and had acquired another house.
I had been taught that among honest people a handshake is an honored bond. I had to learn the hard way that not everyone lives up to this code. In school, as young Americans, we all learned about “Honest Abe” Lincoln, and we were taught that George Washington would not tell a lie about chopping down the cherry tree. American history is filled with examples of men and women of integrity, who were determined to keep their word.
Sadly, in a short few decades, it seems that many have forgotten—or have never been taught—the value of integrity. What our society has reaped from this is a way of life full of uncertainties and stresses. It is small wonder that so many do not keep their promises to God at baptism, or to their mate in the marriage vows.
I am reminded of the words of a poem someone sent to me:
Supposing today was your last day on earth,
The last mile of the journey you’ve trod;
After all of your struggles, how much are you worth,
And how much is your word worth to God?
God has given us this life to build character, and the integrity of our words and our actions is what character is all about. The Bible has a lot to say about the value of our words: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Our words and promises to others, as well as our meditations to ourselves, are of great importance in God’s eyes.
The poem I mentioned above ends with these lines:
We are only supposing, but if it were real
And we invoiced our deeds since our birth,
And we added up all that we’ve done in life’s deals,
How much are we really worth?
Today, we live in a world where practically everyone wants to be his or her own person. Commitment and obligation are just not part of their value system. In the book of Proverbs, we read some sobering truths about how God views the words we say and the promises we make: “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16–19).
Our words either honor us or condemn us. They are worth watching, and they shape our deeds. Many of today’s problems can be traced right back to a disregard for or a lack of commitment to truth.