A new preacher moved to town and took a bus ride to familiarize himself with the territory. He handed the driver his money, and as he sat down, he noticed the driver had given him a dime too much in change.
He pondered whether to return it or just accept it as a gift from God. The driver was busy greeting and letting passengers disembark, and the preacher argued with his conscience that the driver might not even want to be bothered for the amount of ten cents. But as the preacher exited, he handed the dime back to driver, “You gave me too much change.”
“Thank you, sir,” said the driver. “I recognized you from your picture in the paper when the church announced your arrival here. I’ve been looking for a church home, and I wondered what you would do if I overpaid you a dime.”
When the bus left and the preacher stood on the sidewalk, he trembled and thought in his heart, “Lord, I almost sold you out for a dime.”
Today, let’s consider faithfulness. If you’ve followed this column for the past few weeks, then you know we’ve been working our way through the list of attributes described as the fruit of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5:22. Consider the list once more as we get closer to the end of this study: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I’ve heard from a few of you, and I thank you for your stories of how the practice of these godly attributes in everyday life has strengthened your character and witness for God.
Webster's New World Dictionary defines “faithful” as "maintaining allegiance; constant; loyal; marked by or showing a strong sense of duty or responsibility; conscientious; accurate; reliable; exact."
If one remains loyal then we could describe them as trustworthy, reliable, devoted, dependable, steadfast or dedicated. We practice faithfulness in areas of our passions. When a husband remains devoted to God and family, his faithfulness reveals itself over a lifetime of honoring God and his wife and children.
When someone regards good health as a way of honoring God, they remain careful to eat healthy foods, to exercise, and to care for the body that houses the soul God gave them.
When someone has a passion or drive for feeding the hungry, helping the poor, or visiting those in prison, they find ways to be faithful in the giving of their time to ease the suffering of others.
In ancient Israel’s customs, when a price was settled for a tract of land or a pair of oxen, one party would remove his sandal and hand it to the other signifying a solid pact or promise (Ruth 4:1-12). That’s all it took, a man’s word and a “sandal seal.”
Not too many years ago, our grandfathers shook hands on deals – called “a gentleman’s agreement.” These agreements depended upon the honor of the two parties, and were usually made when a price for something was set.
But a “gentlemen’s agreement” could also act as a disguise for wrong secretive acts. It is reported that in the 1930s the National Football League banned black players with a handshake, making sure that no agreement was on paper. And, African Americans were similarly banned from organized baseball with a handshake until 1946, when the Brooklyn Dodgers hired Jackie Robinson.
I love how Jesus furthered the explanation of “faithfulness” when he said to his followers, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’ (Matthew 5:37). Parents, this guidance can help your parenting.
As we move through the next few days, let’s keep the word “faithfulness” in our minds. Our culture demands that we, in good faith, sign our names to credit card purchases, marriage certificates, leases, or other agreements. But many smaller promises we make to family and friends aren’t recorded on paper at the courthouse. Be faithful even in the least of these small-promise-categories.
After all, bus drivers and others are watching. They want to see faithfulness lived out.