Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the oaths you have made.” But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his 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 hair white or black. All you need to say is simply “Yes,” or “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
Matthew 5:33-37 (NIV)
In the verses above from Matthew 5 Jesus is challenging his hearers to consider their personal integrity. In telling his hearers not to ‘… swear an oath at all …’ and that ‘all you need to say is simply “Yes,” or “No” …’, he is actually saying that all you need to do is to give your word. A person’s word should be enough, provided they have the integrity to honour it.
Human tendency is to want to impress those to whom we make a promise that we will indeed keep it. That is why people might swear by some greater authority in order to convince the recipient that they can be trusted. Have you realised that this all starts in childhood? Do you ever remember saying ‘cross my heart and hope to die’? If your recollection is correct, sometimes what you were affirming was the truth, but not always so. Sometimes you knew you weren’t telling the truth, but you certainly didn’t hope to die. Although this isn’t something we would tend to say in adulthood, we might still be tempted to assure the promisee that our promise is valid by making some kind of oath.
What this means is that in all aspects of life – home, work or church our word should be able to be trusted. When you say you will do something, do it. When you say you will be somewhere, be there. When you give your word in business, don’t let money or profit be an excuse for breaking your word. When you make a promise to your children, keep it; your keeping of the promise is a powerful example to your children of how seriously you take personal integrity. The marriage promise (covenant) is somewhere where personal integrity should be evident in the spouses’ dealings with each other.
Personal integrity is not old-fashioned or out-of-date. It is still as relevant today, as it was when Jesus challenged his hearers to give their word and stick to it.
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