Knowing Your Worth

“Above all… do not swear—not by heaven or by earth…All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.” James 5:12

In his book, Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington describes an ex-slave from Virginia:

I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom he pleased. 

Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some $300. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, this black man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands. 

In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not have to pay his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise. 

Although he was born into slavery, the man Washington described obviously knew his worth. More important, he knew that as free as a child of God, his word should be trustworthy. He knew he would sleep peacefully if he kept his word to others. We live in a world where giving our word is not taken seriously. God wants us to walk in blessing and sleep in peace, and that’s why He exhorts us to stand by our word. Be aware of all the times you make promises to people today, and make sure you follow through. Not only will you sleep peacefully, but your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers will have a new respect for you. 


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