Trusting what people say is risky. The older I get the more skeptical I am of certain people promising me that they will do this or that. I’m much more comfortable trusting people’s actions. But what if we could trust people’s words because they always followed them up with the appropriate action? What if other people could trust our words because we lived them out? This is exactly what we are called to in the next passage of the Sermon on the Mount.
Again, you have heard that it was said long ago, “do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.” But I tell you, do not swar an oath at all: either by heaven for it is God’s throne; or by the earth for it is God’s footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one of your hair white or black.
Jesus is not referring to oaths or vows made in court or in a marriage or similar. Rather, he is referring to a statement we make to somehow give validity to our words and actions. I read in the study notes of my Bible that while yes, vows made that swore by God himself must be kept, those vows made by more tangible locations or persons were not as strict as the ones made in the Lord’s name. There were ways out of not fulfilling those promises. I think though, in today’s culture, we have deteriorated further in our word.
How often do you hear an individual say, “I swear on my mother’s grave,” while justifying their word? How readily do people say, “as sure as I’m standing here, it’s the truth,” while convincing others of their tale? How many times this week have you heard someone say, “I swear to God!” while telling a fabricated story? Now, how many times have you yourself done this?
Why do we feel the need to vindicate our speech? Likely because we in the past have lacked follow through on our word so others begin to question and doubt the truth of our statements. Constant self justification is mediocre living. If we are to live life to it’s full abundance, we cannot lower ourselves to such rationalization of our words and actions.
All you need to say is simply “Yes” or “No;” anything beyond that is from the evil one.
Using vows in attempt to add validity to our word is from the devil. If we were to take this without conferring with the bible and knowing the Lord’s heart, this statement seems utterly ridiculous and out of bounds. It’s just words. Its just backup for what we are saying.
As disciples of Christ, we are called to live in integrity. Proverbs 10:9 says, “whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes the crooked path will be found out.” To walk in integrity is also to speak with integrity. To do anything short of that is crooked and from the devil.
Living in integrity encompasses a life of honesty and moral uprightness. As a youth pastor once described to me, “integrity is who you are in the dark.” If the person that you are when no one is looking is someone of honesty and walking in the righteousness of Christ, you should speak with confidence that you will always do your best to fulfill every word that you say. You intentionally seek to be everything you claim to be. Lacking integrity will lead to others not trusting you. When you can sense a lack of trust out of others, many will try to achieve a false sense of trust by making promises or oaths. The reality is though, the only way to truly gain trust out of others is to walk in integrity.
I think to be a person with integrity, we need to slow down our decision making process. To confidently say, “yes” or “no” to a commitment means we must fully think through our ability to fulfill our word. There is no shame in saying, “I don’t know yet,” or “let me confirm my schedule,” or “I need to pray about this.” It is much better that we give a slow answer that we can complete than to give a quick one that we will fall through on.
This passage on promises again calls us to live higher. If we profess the name of Christ, we better back it up in our lives and in our words. To profess christianity yet live without integrity is not of God, rather of the devil. Let us be an accurate, radical representation of our Lord in every aspect of our life.