My Purpose Driven Life: – Day 19 – Part 5: The Four Way Test

224792151_95f7517c3c_oHow do we attempt to keep our conversation from doing harm to people? James warns of the problem:

James 1:26  If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.

James 3:2 For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

What we say and how we say it reveals so often the truth of what is within us. The warning Jesus gives is even more clear:

Mat 12:34 You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Our honest words reveal our hearts. And if we try to lie, the heart still becomes visible to the wise mind that is listening. James reminds us what sort of speech should be among us:

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. 18 And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

The last two verses are a good recommendation to those who would wish to cleanse their speech.

One tool that’s been around for years to help people speak kindly and honestly is the Four Way Test – four question that help us to know what is wise to say. Before you say or do anything, test it first with these four questions. If it doesn’t pass the test, do not let it pass your lips. Here’s the story:

At any Walgreens drugstore in the United States, you’re likely to see The Four-Way Test hanging on the wall in the manager’s office and in the pharmacy. These plaques are tangible evidence of a philosophy that has guided the company’s corporate culture for decades, championed by Rotarian Charles R. Walgreen Jr., the son of its founder.

A member of the Rotary Club of Chicago, Walgreen, who died in February at age 100, informally used the test as early as 1947 while serving as president of the drugstore chain. Dick Schneider, who started working there that year, recalls getting a copy of the test and being told by Walgreen that “we use it as a compass around here.” In speeches, Walgreen often referred to it as “a prescription for living, a new version of the golden rule.” The company formally adopted the test in 1955.

Walgreen first heard of The Four-Way Test from fellow Rotary Club member Herbert J. Taylor. Taylor came up with the four simple precepts in 1932, when Club Aluminum Company, where he was president, was facing almost certain bankruptcy. In the depths of the Depression, no one was buying much aluminum. But Taylor thought that if he could convince his employees to do the right thing in every situation, they might at least win sales from their competitors. “So one morning,” he would often recount, “I leaned over my desk, rested my head in my hands. In a few moments, I reached for a white paper card and wrote down what had come to me – in 24 words.”

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 

I called it The Four-Way Test” of the things we think, say or do.”

Five years later, Club Aluminum was back in the black. Taylor always credited The Four-Way Test with its resurgence. Rotary International adopted the test in 1943, and Taylor became RI president in 1954. At one point, our organization assumed the copyright on his test. Now in the public domain, it has been adopted by scores of companies in the 75 years since he thought up its four principles, which remain relevant today.

Herbert Taylor was a Chicago area businessman with a long history of religious and community service. Taylor co-founded the Christian Workers Foundation (CWF) in 1939. He served on the boards of several such institutions as: Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (U.S.A.), Youth for Christ, Young Life, Fuller Seminary, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Christian Service Brigade, Pioneer Girls, and the Greater Chicago Billy Graham Crusades. He was vice-chairman of the Price Adjustment Board of the War Department during World War II; the other positions he held were the presidency of Rotary International, 1954–55; directorship positions for the First National Bank of Barrington (Illinois) and the Chicago Federal Savings and Loan Association; and membership on the Board of Governors of the Illinois Crippled Children Society, 1941–42. Taylor also authored “The Four Way Test” “The Ten Marks of a Good Citizen” “The Twelve Marks of a True Christian” and “God Has A Plan For You.” He has been inducted into the American National Business Hall of Fame. He featured on the cover of Newsweek’s 28 February 1955 issue. I was almost one month old when it appeared that year.

And I’m also pleased to report that Herbert Taylor was a Methodist, a member of my religious tribe. Living the faith is important, and he gave us a good tool to use in the Four Way Test. These four questions build trust and restore trust by the only means that I know to be practical: be worthy of trust.



The quote on the history of the “Four Way Test” can be found here:

The second quote on Taylor’s experiences is from Wikipedia, at

The photo is by sjdunphy, courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons License, and can be viewed at:

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