Authority, Part 7: Our Word
Numbers 30:2 If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.
Matthew 7:37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
Psalm 15:1, 4b LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?…He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
Once upon a time, a person’s word meant something in society. Contracts used to be agreed on verbally. We no longer live in that kind of culture. Yet Matthew 7 (above) is clear: we should simply say what we mean and mean what we say. Anything more is not from God.
Our words carry weight before Him. We see all through the scriptures, and especially in the proverbs, that our words have an impact on people. What we say and how we say it can either build people up or tear them down. Gossip can be so powerful that it can bypass the brain entirely and go into the inmost parts of a person (Proverbs 18:8).
In that light, it means something spiritually when we verbally commit to doing something. Our society has learned to back away from the harsh reality of this truth by giving little heed to promises and verbal commitments. Unless something is agreed upon by lawyers and put into a contract, we often don’t expect that a person will do what they have promised to do. Because there is so much careless speech, our society’s response is to give little credence to what people say that they will do.
Our response should be different. Instead of giving little credence to other’s speech, we should determine instead that our own speech be clear and precise, and we should be dedicated to the fulfillment of everything that’s been promised. That’s in great contrast to today’s pressure to keep on expressing long after thought has ceased, and will entail an entirely new approach to what comes out of our mouths. Our words will have to be fewer, and they should weigh more. Our words have authority, and that authority should be honored.
Because they have authority, we also need to be sure to never break a promise if it’s in our power, no matter how inconvenient or painful it might be. That’s what “swearing to [our] own hurt” means. The authority of what comes out of our mouths trumps any difficulty we might encounter in backing up our words with action. And we go back to lesson #1 if it turns out to be impossible to do what we said: Think before you speak, let your words be few, and don’t make a promise if you can’t back up your words.
If we embrace the fact that God has put authority in our words, we will be less likely to speak unthinkingly and more likely to speak words that we will honor.
Prayer: Father, help me to recognize that my words have authority. While I may have to take others’ words lightly, I pray that others will never have to take mine lightly. Help me to say what I mean and mean what I say, and to back up what I promise to do with action, even if it hurts.