We should be careful not to say we're going to do something unless we really mean it - and really do it. In this week's portion we learn how in the times of the Tabernacle, if people made a promise and didn't keep it, they would bring a special offering as atonement. God takes our words and our promises seriously and wants us to take them seriously too.
In our story a kid keeps away trouble by keeping his word.
"A PROMISING FUTURE"
The guys looked at their watches, getting hotter and more impatient by the minute. They had all made up to meet in front of the school building at 9:00 AM to set out on a Sunday bike trip. Now it was almost 10 AM and their friend, Matt, still hadn't shown up.
"Should we wait? He promised he would really make it this time," Jack said.
"I don't know," sighed Steve. "I think we should just go. If he hasn't come by now, he's not coming."
The guys all nodded and began to ride.
They finished their trip and were just riding back into town when they saw Matt sitting in front of Burger Barn, calmly sipping a coke with a couple other kids. The guys pulled their bikes over to the side of the road.
"Hey, Matt," called Steve, "What happened? You said you were coming biking with us today."
The boy sat up. "Well, if I did, I forgot. Besides, I never promised."
"You did so!" countered Jack. "We waited for you a whole hour. That's really not cool."
"Then I guess I just changed my mind," he said.
"You just changed you mind and didn't tell us? Don't you know a person has to keep his word? That's the most important thing he has," Steve said.
But Matt just shrugged and turned back to his drink as his miffed friends rode away.
Matt Jacobs was a good kid, but he had a bad habit of saying he was going to do something and then just blowing it off. Sometimes there would be a good reason, sometimes a not-so-good reason and sometimes no reason at all other than that he just didn't feel like it.
Later that afternoon, Matt was tired and looking forward to relaxing. He had just settled back in his favorite easy chair and flipped on a CD when he remembered he had promised to give a little kid from the neighborhood a swimming lesson that day at 5:00. He looked at his watch - 4:55. He'd have to leave right away to be there even close to when he said he would.
Uggh! Matt thought. He really didn't want to go - at least not until he relaxed for a while. Why should he bother? The kid could wait outside the pool by the fence a little while. After all, the pool would be locked up until he came with his key. And even if he never made it…the kid would just go home, right?
He was about to lean back and relax when his friend's words came back to him: '...a person's word is the most important thing he has.' Usually he'd let thoughts like that pass out of his head as quickly as they passed in, but somehow it felt like there really was something wrong with not doing what he said he would.
Fighting off his entire hundred and ten pounds of inertia, Matt lifted himself out of his chair and set out for the local pool. If he hurried, he'd get there almost by the time he had promised.
Hmm, that's strange, Matt thought at the sight of the slightly pushed opened gate. He hurriedly went in and saw the younger kid he was supposed to teach bobbing in the deep water in obvious panic. Matt jumped in and rescued the kid just in time.
"Hey, don't you know how dangerous that was?" he scolded the kid.
"Well, I…I got here at 5:00 and you weren't here. I waited a couple minutes, then I pushed in past the gate to see if you were inside, then I…I…fell in the deep end!" he sobbed.
Matt turned white as he thought about what would have happened if he hadn't kept his word and come to give the lesson. What happened that day woke Matt up to the importance of keeping his word and from then on when he said he'd do something - he meant it.
Q. How did Matt feel about not sticking to his word at first?
A. He felt like it wasn't so important and he could just go back on it whenever he wanted.
Q. How did he feel about it in the end?
A. When he saw that people count on him to keep his word and bad things can happen when he doesn't, he felt like he would be much more careful to keep his word from then on.
Q. What life lesson did Matt learn that day?
A. He hadn't taken his obligation to keep his word very seriously even though it might inconvenience others. But when he saw how people count on others to keep their word even in life and death matters, he realized that a person's word is not a small thing.
Q. If we make some secret sign with our fingers, does that make it okay not to keep our word?
A. Not at all. Keeping our word is an important value and cannot be brushed off just by making some secret sign. If we are not sure we want or are able to do something we say we will, we should tell the person that as we are saying it, i.e. 'I'm not sure if I can make it, but I will try.' etc.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Why is it important to keep one's word?
A. A person's word and his speech in general express his essence and are very deep and spiritual parts of who he is. When we take our word and what we say lightly, we are taking ourselves and life lightly and losing the opportunity to achieve the ultimate pleasure of spiritual growth.
Q. Must we do everything we say we will?
A. Obviously if we say we will do something foolish or harmful, we shouldn't do it. However, short of this, we should be careful at the time of speaking to not say we will do something unless we feel a deep conviction we will follow through on it and even then we should make it clear that we aren't promising.