Contracts and Covenants

What in your life is governed by a contract? and furthermore, what in your life is governed by a covenant?

Are you buying pencils? Are you asking someone out on a date? Are you looking after someone else’s children? Are you looking after your own children? Are you lending a company some money? Whatever the activity is, there is likely some sort of agreement at play. Formal or informal. Conditional or unconditional.

I work in the world of contracts. Procurement is quite a dry subject because it is so caught up in process, detail and legal paperwork. But the truth is that an effective contract solidifies a business relationship. It serves to protect both the buyer and seller. It is often about risk mitigation more than anything else. A good contract is a reference for all sorts of details in a relationship which might be the source of contention such as the quality of the materials to be used, the parameters of the services to be provided, delivery times, fees, and costs. Fundamental to this form of agreement is the concept of negotiation. The details in a good contract are negotiated and work for both parties. This means it is conditional, optional and it is temporary.

A covenant in the ancient and religious sense is different. Each covenant established the basis of a relationship with God, conditions for that relationship, promises, and consequences if promises are broken. However, a covenant is more of an oath invoked, rather than an agreement negotiated. There are no conditions for the covenant. A covenant once invoked cannot be broken. There is no end to a covenant. Whatever one party does, you have to also do 100%. One of the most familiar examples of a covenant for us today is marriage. Til death do us part. The motivation is love rather than money or risk management.

Interesting to me is the interplay between the covenant of marriage and the many contracts of marriage. They work in parallel with each other. In my marriage, it helps me to think of them as working concurrently, but at different levels. The covenant of marriage is endless and no matter the condition. In sickness and in health. It is looking far, deep, and wide at the commitment. It is a permanent and spiritual oath that gives comfort and joy. The covenant will get me through the unforeseen risks that I cannot manage.

The contracts and negotiations of marriage, in contrast, will get me through the risks I can foresee. They are for the day to day commercial, operational, functional and emotional aspects of marriage which will turn into chaos if there is no attention paid on a regular basis.

Constant negotiation for the contracts. Deep comfort and faith in the covenant. A good marriage likely involves constant negotiation, even though the underlying covenant is non-negotiable. The idea of contracts and a covenant being both present in marriage is beautiful. To rely only on one and ignore the other is probably a mistake.

Happy Thursday, Chimps.