A dying man gave each of his best friends – a lawyer, doctor and priest – an envelope containing £25,000 in cash to be placed in his coffin. A week later the man dies and the friends each place an envelope in the coffin. Several months later, the priest confesses that he only put £10,000 in the envelope and sent the rest to a mission in Africa. The doctor confesses that his envelope had only £8,000 because he donated to a medical charity. The lawyer is outraged, “I am the only one who kept my promise to our dying friend. I want you both to know that the envelope I placed in the coffin contained my own personal check for the entire £25,000.

A promise seemingly is a fundamental element of our human relationships and interactions. Sometimes a promise is spoken clearly and directly, but more often it is hidden behind other wordings. When we see or hear an advert it suggests we’ll be happier or our life will be more comfortable thanks to a new purchase. Many books have enthusiastic reviews quoted on the back cover, promising the best and the most interesting content ever. Unfortunately quite often a newly bought item or service doesn’t turn out to be exactly what we expected; e. g we bought “the fastest broadband in the market” and then we realised that they probably meant a flea market.

There is a similar, usually subconscious, problem with self advertising. Often people, particularly young women and men, but not always, advertise themselves by making use of make-up, an outfit or by their behaviour, anything to attract someone else’s attention. That requires a lot of effort, and sometimes is quite costly. Then they find “their second half”, get married and eventually are able to stop advertising themselves, because they have got him (or her). OK, I’ve probably upset everybody here, so let’s move on.

Have you ever been disappointed or embittered by a broken promise? I bet you have. Everybody has, many times. Sometimes we express our dissatisfaction openly; sometimes we just let our anger boil up inside. However we do it, we always blame others: the spouse, a neighbour, politicians… Forgive me for sounding personal, but that’s a big mistake. In many situations we should only blame ourselves; or more accurately our expectations. We claim that we approach life realistically, but actually we do it idealistically. We want to see things and people to be better than they really are. And at some point we find out that the person or the item concerned doesn’t fulfil these expectations. But we adults tend to blame anything or anybody except ourselves.

Unfortunately there are people who have developed unrealistic expectations towards God. They think that being a believer makes their lives nice, smooth and easy; they believe that their faith shields them from pain and suffering. Quite quickly they soon notice that life is more or less (usually far more) different than they’d expected. So they blame God. Interestingly, Jesus never promised a nice, smooth and easy life to his followers – rather he foretold more problems than they had before. But his promise for the future was eternal life in heaven.

We have been given a ‘voucher’ for eternal life. But we need neither a doctor nor a lawyer nor a priest to place it in our coffin in an envelope. Do it yourself. Keep it in your heart.