Our word must be our bond

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From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 6 – A closer look at the various types of people with whom we must be faithful

For many years I was involved in commercial litigation. I would act as a lawyer for one side or another in commercial disputes. Our client would either be suing or being sued. It would generally be because somebody had failed to keep to the contracts they had agreed. They would have either broken a promise or let some other company down in some way. Having done so, instead of admitting it, the party in the wrong would generally deny it and seek to get away with it. Those who did that were unfaithful men who did not consider their word to be their bond. Sadly, there are very many people who act in that way.

For that reason, when contracts are entered onto between businesses, one of the jobs of the lawyers drawing up the contract is to give thought to what will happen if one of the parties breaks any of the terms. Even before the contract is entered into, we have to think about, and plan for, somebody breaking the agreement. We even work out in advance what the damages should be. We also make provisions in the contract for our own client being in breach, not just the other party. That’s sad, but necessary, because so few businessmen have any strong sense of honour. Many do not feel any shame at all at the idea of not keeping their word.

For the Christian there has to be a higher standard. We must consider ourselves bound by our words, regardless of whether it was ever put in writing. We must view our own word as being unbreakable. A hundred years ago, or even fifty, that was how most business was conducted, but no longer. Too few people have enough personal integrity for business to be able to operate on that basis today. It cannot now be based on trust, because so few people can be trusted.

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