1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?2 The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; 4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the LORD; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; 5 who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Psalm 15 NIV
Dr. Ray Anderson was my first doctoral mentor. He grew up on a South Dakota farm at a time when horses still pulled plows. In his book, Unspoken Wisdom, he shares simple stories from simple days . . . of milking cows, of turning up black earth while sitting behind a team of horses, of ruined crops, and of harvesting golden grain -- always with his father -- always unspoken wisdom emanating from the older man's life.
Anderson relates a time when his father honored a financial commitment even when a hailstorm decimated the harvest that was to fund that commitment. Reflecting on Psalm 15:4, he writes,
An oath is a binding promise, a solemn commitment. Convictions are costly. The price we pay in keeping a commitment may far exceed the value we receive. Those who "stand by their oath even to their hurt" are people that you and I would trust.
If we break one promise because keeping it is too costly, we tear away at our own character. And we damage the characters of those who know and trust us.1
Recently, at the tail end of a torrent of work, I did my best to graciously excuse myself from a commitment I made. I justified my decision of course, but inside the words of Psalm 15 were gnawing at me.
The incident from the farm reminded me that harvesting a great character is painful at times, but always worth the price.
Both Ray and his father are gone now, but their lives still speak--great character works that way.
May the Lord give you strength to stand by your word.
1 Ray S. Anderson. Unspoken Wisdom: Truths My Father Taught Me (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1995), pages 68, 70.