Our culture is currently experiencing a crisis in faithfulness. People make marriage vows and commit to be faithful to one another, only to break them when temptation comes along. People make financial commitments, only to break them when the budget gets tight. People join a club or fitness center but stop going as soon as the schedule gets squeezed. People make spiritual commitments to the Lord and to the church, only to drop them if the weather looks good for boating on any particular weekend.
The interesting thing about this lack of faithfulness in our society is that the very people who are breaking their commitments often consider themselves faithful. As a culture, we have forgotten what faithfulness is. Instead we prefer to create our own version of faithfulness even if our activities deny the real meaning of the word.
I was thinking about this recently after a series frustrating experiences with some young people who considered themselves faithful, but who clearly were not. I realized that these young people really do not understand what faithfulness is.
Though there may be many definitions of faithfulness, the one I like best is: “Faithfulness is consistently and competently doing something you enjoy for an extended period of time even in the face of difficult situations.”
The first aspect of this definition is consistency. If we only do something every so often, that is not faithfulness. While no one is perfect, faithfulness demands that most of the time we are consistently doing a certain thing. If we are not consistent, then we are not faithful.
The second aspect of this definition is competency. Some people do things consistently, but they do them in such a low quality way that someone else has to come along after them and correct their errors. Doing something that poorly is not true faithfulness. Faithfulness requires doing something with a level of competence that someone else does not have to fix our mess.
The third aspect of this definition is doing something you enjoy. Sometimes we do things because we have to. While there is something commendable about doing the right thing even when we don’t feel like it, to really be considered faithful, we must actually enjoy what we are doing. Otherwise our bad attitude begins to show through and the results of our efforts will be significantly less than if we were doing something we actually enjoyed. This is the probably the aspect of this particular definition that people will struggle with the most. But can we really consider ourselves faithful if we hate what we have committed to?
The fourth aspect of this definition is that that the activity must be done for an extended period of time. Anyone can do something for a short period of time. But doing something for a little while does not demonstrate faithfulness. While there may not be an exact length of time that defines all aspects of faithfulness, a general rule of thumb is that when a person has done a certain activity long enough that people associate that person with that activity, they have probably entered into the realm of faithfulness. If we haven’t done an activity long enough for people to associate us with that activity, we probably haven’t been doing it long enough to be considered faithful to that particular task.
The fifth aspect of this definition is that the activity must be done even in the face of difficult situations. All commitments that we make will face challenges. People who forsake their commitments at the first sign of difficulty are not demonstrating faithfulness. True faithfulness requires a person to continue the activity even when doing so costs them something. We never know how important something is to us until we have to sacrifice in order to keep that thing in our lives. Once we have remained committed in the face of difficulty and sacrifice, then we have demonstrated true faithfulness.
If our culture is to survive for another generation, we must rediscover faithfulness. We need to help our children understand faithfulness to marriage, to family, to their jobs and most importantly, to their faith. Without it, our culture will continue to decay and eventually unravel. Let us commit ourselves to faithfulness in every situation.