I am a member of a fraternity of kinds. I won’t divulge which – I’m about to paint them with a pretty broad brush. It’s a truism to say that this fraternity is cheaper than a can of Spam… a label that is often worn with pride.
The game goes as follows. Need some work done on your house? Or car? Or whatever? Find a member of said fraternity, preferably a poor rookie desperate to feed his family, and then: gouge him. If you’re a member of this fraternity who wants to get out of being bothered on a regular basis by those looking for cheap labour, it’s pretty simple: just charge the going rate. Few will hire you, regardless of how good you are at your job.
Further, I often I hear from my compadres on the phone looking for a deal and hear the expression “It’s just business, nothing personal.” One guess which side of the shady deal they’re on.
“Worthless, worthless!” says the buyer, but on the way out, he gloats. Prov. 20:13
This sort of behaviour is expected in a lost and dying world, but inside the church?
Loopholes, loopholes, look at all the loopholes!
A funny thing happened when I became a Christian. My expectations of my own behaviour and the behaviour of my new friends inside the church were elevated. Maybe unrealistically, but elevated none-the-less. It was common before coming to Christ to accept the expression “it’s just business” as an acceptable excuse to rip someone off or to not live up to expectations. Pushing the envelope or skirting rules wasn’t an issue, because I didn’t care. After coming to Christ, it became a BIG issue. Suddenly the idea of not living up to my word or what was expected of me became forefront in my mind, and to my shame, I expected that same attitude from my new Christian friends. Little did I realize that this was not the case. Christians, singing God’s praises on Sunday, were loophole-finding specialists the rest of the week. What was going on?
It’s a question of trust.
Is there anything wrong with negotiating a good contract or deal? Not at all. But once that deal is sealed with a signature or a western Canadian hand shake, that’s it. It used to be said that your word was your bond. Now it appears that our word doesn’t mean much, inside or outside the church. How bad is it? A couple of examples:
I used to own a firewood company. I would sell and deliver bags of firewood to campgrounds all around the province. When I first started trying to drum up business, I couldn’t believe some of the comments from customers. The number one question I was asked wasn’t “How much are your bags?” but overwhelmingly, “Will you deliver what you say you will deliver when you say you will deliver it?” I thought this was a trick question, but apparently the firewood business was pretty unreliable at that time. (I cannot speak to whether it is better today or not). I got my fill of contracts in no time by simply promising to deliver the goods when I said I would.
My second example comes from speaking to a church administrator. The administrator was a tad distraught by church trends witnessed while in the role. What sorts of things, you might ask? I’ll keep them general, but here they are.
Not following the rules of the contract.
Every contract has rules and stipulations that each party agree to follow or adhere to. These simple rules were not followed. Does it matter? Haven’t we all taken food or drink into the sanctuary when the sign clearly states not to? Yes, but that’s the point! The seriousness of the breach of contract isn’t the point, the point is that the breach is happening at all. And for those that think I’m just being nit-picky, how about the next issue?
Not paying what is owed.
More than one contract with the church has been breached via non-payment by those signing the contracts. Well, you might ask, are they Christians? Here’s the rub: yes, or so they say.
This is theft, a clear violation of the 8th commandment.
It’s frustrating enough that we live in a world gripped with a denial of objective truth or righteousness, but it’s another when those that are supposed to stand upon the Truth, namely Jesus, and His righteousness, that we would act in such dishonest ways.
The Knot Untied
“Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Anything more comes from the evil one.” Matt. 5:37
Christians should be the most trustworthy subjects in any kingdom. We are to be people of our word, people of integrity. This includes our relationships both inside and outside the church. It is a most disappointing thing when I hear Christian business people express their frustration about business dealings with fellow Christians, to the point where they express a desire to not have to deal with them anymore. It is quite the situation we have when Christians prefer to deal with non-Christians because they find the non-Christians more trustworthy and honest.
“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
Is it showing love when we do not keep our word? Is it showing love when we grind down our neighbour in negotiations? Is it showing love when we do not pay what we owe? As a famous person once said, “If you have to ask the question, then you’ve answered it.” In short, there seems to be a rottenness in the church when it comes to loving our neighbour.
Is it too much to ask that our fellow Christians be people of their word? If you’ve given your word, keep it. Let the world look upon you and say, “There goes a man of his word. He can be trusted.” And in so doing, not only are you being a good ambassador for Christ and His Kingdom, but you are showing love in obedience to your King.