I wrote about this the other night. Really, I did.
Paragraph after paragraph to explain how I’m still a man of my word, in spite of my circumstances. I even included scripture verses to encourage the reader to do the same.
It was good. Do you remember?
What! You never read that article?
Well, yeah. I knew that.
It’s not true anyway.
The part about me being a man of my word isn’t, that is. I did write it. I just couldn’t bring myself to publish it. It still sits as a draft in my computer program.
You’re going to make me write about this instead, aren’t you?
The circumstances of the two events are nearly identical; the actors in the little stageplay are the only real difference. Oh. Then, there’s my failure to live up to the claim this time.
The details aren’t all that important. An email arrived both times. I had sold products, back when I ran a music store, and made promises about the products. Both of the email writers wanted me to live up to my promise.
The first time, I passed. With flying colors, I passed the test. I wanted to boast about that. I wanted to make sure my readers knew how important it was to me to be a man of my word. Even when it wasn’t convenient to do that.
Tonight? It wasn’t such a rousing success. When called on to make good on my promise, I simply made an excuse and said I couldn’t.
I don’t operate the music store anymore. Money is tight. Bills have to be paid. No one could expect me to stand behind promises—now that the business is defunct. No one.
Except the One who called me. The One who sustains me with His own hand.
He expects it.
David, the psalmist knew it. He suggested that those who want to live in God’s presence needed, among other things, to do what they had promised, even when it hurts. (Psalm 15:4)
This was going to hurt. So, I said sorry, I won’t.
I don’t want to tell you this. I want you to think I’m a man of my word. I do.
But then, I guess I should actually be a man of my word. Shouldn’t I?
The red-headed lady who raised me had a saying for this (you knew she would): Confession is good for the soul.
Her sayings weren’t always right. This one is.
James said it in a little more round-about way. Confess your sins to each other and you will be healed. (James 5:16)
I suppose you might say that being healed is good for the soul.
The realization has grown in me more and more in these last days that we have become an arrogant people.
More inclined to boast than to confess, our spiritual leaders and teachers tussle and vie for the places of honor, only to be shocked when they are showered with disrespect and hateful words from other leaders and teachers.
We follow their example. I have seen more vile speech from believers, aimed at other believers, in the last short period of time than I have in my lifetime.
I wonder. We refuse to let anyone see our weakness for fear that they will respect us less, and then when the facade falls (as it surely will) our weaknesses and sins are exposed anyway, to the chagrin of some and the glee of others.
If we exalt ourselves, it is inevitable that we will be humbled. Inevitable.
Among all the shouting and self-promotion, somehow, I think our Lord would propose only seven words for us to say.
They are words of humility and penitence. Words that remind us who we really are.
I’m saying them tonight.
God be merciful to me, a sinner.
A proud man is always looking down on things and people, and of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.
(C.S. Lewis ~ British scholar/novelist ~ 1898-1963)
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:9-14 ~ NLT)