Matthew 5:33 “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’[a] 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of our last administration was its willingness to lie. To lie when there was a video of the real truth available. To lie even though it meant assaulting another’s character or invoking some evil outcome on them. Lie, lie, lie.
Jesus is absolute in his condemnation of not being true, and he expresses it in this teaching about vows. “Just say a simple ‘Yes I will’ or ‘No I won’t,'” he says. No “pinky promises” or swearing on a stack of Bibles, Jesus wants his disciples to be always faithful to what they say. People shouldn’t have to say, “Promise me!” because our character and integrity are so dependable, there is no doubt in the other’s mind about what we will do after a “Yes, I’ll do it.”
If the world operated faithfully by this policy, imagine what would happen. Contracts would be kept. Affairs would be unknown in marriages. Verbal agreements would be kept. There’d be no wondering whether the Other would be dependable. A handshake would do. You get the idea.
How seriously do you take your promises to others? I have a friend who will not promise anything for fear of violating this Jesus-principle. I think she takes it too far. We saw her at Pepperdine and asked if we all could eat together during this rare week. She said, “I don’t make promises.” So she put herself under no obligation to us, and we never saw her again during the week at Pepperdine. I think that Jesus is not freeing us from obligation to each other but is calling us to be full of integrity in our relationships.
Do you keep your word?
Faithful and Steadfast God. We want to be like you in our own faithfulness. Help us to be dependable people. People that don’t leave others wondering “if.” Help us to have the spirit of the Psalmist who said, “[The Lord’s people] keep their promises even when it hurts.” Help us to also remember the promise we each made at our baptism to be your people and live under your reign. In Jesus’ name, I pray this. Amen.