When others know that they can hang their trust on you, they consider you dependable.
There are a cluster of words (depending on which version of the English Bible you are using).
Let me, first, give you the picture of another kind of person that the Book of Proverbs talks about. It’s the kind of person that you depend on, only to discover (usually too late) that they were, in fact, unreliable.
Proverbs 25.19 (NRSV): Like a broken tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.
That’s a graphic image of what happens when you hang your trust on an undependable person. The disappointment is sudden and it’s painful.
A PORTRAIT OF DEPENDABILITY
Broadly speaking it says that you can tell how dependable someone is based on how you answer two questions:
1. Do they communicate truthfully?
2. Do they have a track record of acting reliably?
The appearance of dependability is a kind of promise. If anyone’s going to believe the promise that you’re signalling, they’re going to also need to believe that you’re truthful in your communication.
A dependable person is truthful in their speech. Listen to this proverb:
Proverbs 14.5 (GNT): A reliable witness always tells the truth, but an unreliable one tells nothing but lies.
A truthful person can be depended upon because they’re not going say one thing and really mean something else. They aren’t going to spin the facts and make a situation look like it’s better or worse than it is. They aren’t going to exaggerate. They won’t hide the truth with white lies.
TRUTHFUL COMMITMENT TO ROLES
We also communicate by the roles that we take on. And dependable people have a truthful commitment to their roles.
We expect those who take on certain roles and offices to be dependable.
This is part of the reason why the Bible makes so much about faithfulness in marriage. It’s not that we’ve made this promise only when we uttered those words of our wedding vows. Our roles themselves communicate that promise.
Proverbs 6.32-33 (NRSV): 32 But he who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. 33 He will get wounds and dishonour, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
Someone who takes on the role of friend, signals a promise that they can be relied upon, that even when they say harsh things to you, they can be trusted. And that’s the insight behind this proverb:
Proverbs 27.6 (NIV): Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
A true friend can be relied upon even when they seem to hurt you. And if they can’t be relied upon then they really are no friend to you.
A TRACK RECORD OF RELIABILITY
I can easily use words and speech that make me sound truthful. But I may just be fooling you. Listen to this proverb:
Proverbs 20.6 (NLT):
Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?
So, how do we identify dependability in ourselves and in others? Now there’s really no fool-proof way of knowing. But we do get an insight here:
Proverbs 12.22 (ESV): Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.
Those who can be depended on are those who act dependably (or act faithfully). Those who can be depended on are those who have a track record of being reliable.
I want to mention just three areas where a person shows evidence of dependability.
1. Work: How do they generally do the tasks that they’ve been entrusted to do?
2. Speech: Are they responsible with their tongues? Are they careful with their words?
3. Sacrifice: Are they willing to count the cost for those who depend on them?
A dependable person will faithfully complete the tasks given to them. Now let me say that these tasks that may be given to them need to be humanly possible (we’re not talking about tasks that are impossible to do due to health reasons or disability for example). I think it also goes without saying that they also need to be morally neutral tasks.
Listen to this:
Proverbs 25.13 (NIV): Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master.
I want you to notice something about this proverb. It’s not a proverb about the message, but the faithfulness of the messenger. You see, we don’t really know what kind of news the messenger is delivering. We don’t know if he carries good or bad news. But a faithful messenger is still able to refresh his master who relies on him to do what he was asked to do. It’s his dependability that brings his master refreshing.
And that’s what a reliable people do. Their churches flourish because of their reliability. Their dutifulness boosts the morale of the organisations they work for. Their colleagues feel a bit more secure because they’ve got someone like them who they can count on in their team. Their families are emotionally secure because of their steadfastness.
USE OF THE TONGUE
Dependable people are careful with their tongues. They aren’t careless or reckless in their conversations. They know to be appropriately confidential with delicate matters that have been disclosed to them.
Listen to this:
Proverbs 11.13 (NLT): A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.
A gossip is someone who reveals a secret that they were entrusted to guard. The gossip’s intention is never to help.
Here’s another thing we see in dependable people. They are willing to make the sacrifice so that others can count on them in legitimate ways.
There’s an interesting proverb that’s straightforward at one level, which, I think has some profound implications. Listen to it:
Proverbs 28.20 (NLT): The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.
On one level, the point is clear. The trustworthy (the one you can rely on) will get blessed with riches. And those who want to get rich quick won’t. In fact, they’ll find themselves in trouble.
Dependability always comes at a cost. To be the sort of person that someone can count on, you’ll also need to be someone who can make sacrifices. Like the person mentioned in the proverb, you’ll need to be willing to give up your ambition get rich quick.
Dependable people have a track record of showing a willingness to make sacrifices for those who count on them.
WHY DEPENDABILITY MATTERS
Much of the Christian life seems counter-intuitive in that way. Christ Jesus, for example, calls us who follow him to be servants and even slaves to each other.
Our motivation to give our trustworthiness is really rooted in the fact that I received from the Perfectly Trustworthy One, our Lord and our God through Jesus Christ.
When I show that I’m reliable to do what is asked of me (assuming, of course, that its humanly possible and morally right) – when I do that, I’m simply starting to show a likeness to the family of God to which I belong.
You see, when we trust in this Jesus, we get adopted as a child of the Heavenly Father. He gives us his own Spirit who lives in us so that our lives start bearing the same likeness of Christ Jesus as we ourselves become dependable.
One day, this journey of life will be over. We’ll faithfully finish the course that was set before us. You and I will see our Master face to face, and my prayer is that he’ll say to us the words we find in:
Matthew 25.21 (ESV): His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’