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Speaking with Integrity


Speaking with integrity

From Christ’s Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:33-37

"Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”


When Jesus addressed the issue of oaths in His Sermon on the Mount, He was implicating common practice that was encouraged by the religious leaders of His day. Basically, Jewish rabbis had installed rules on the making and breaking of oaths. As you can imagine, the ability to make vows that could be broken was attractive to swindlers and liars of the time.


According to Jewish tradition, making a vow to the Lord could not be broken; however, swearing by the earth, or perhaps vowing to the heavens, was not viewed as a contract per se. As such, these “lesser oaths” could be severed according to long-standing tradition. This framework encouraged loopholes, fibs, and thievery, as it would today. In any era, oaths made lightly are devoid of honesty.


Consequently, Jesus prohibits all conversational swearing to anything or anyone. Ultimately, to make an oath in our day-to-day interactions not only projects dishonesty, but it is to swear by the Lord’s name. How can this be? Because He is the Creator of all things; indiscriminate swearing to an object or person is ultimately spoken in His sovereign presence.


Obviously, oaths can be made in serious matters, and Scripture advocates using oaths when appropriate. God Himself confirms promises with oaths (Hebrews 6:13-18), and Jesus spoke under oath (Matthew 26:63-64). Additionally, weddings and administrative proceedings are examples where oaths are foundational. In contrast, vows are not to be used nonchalantly, frivolously, or in manipulation.


In Matthew 5:37, Christ states, “But let your statement be, “Yes, yes, or No, no; anything beyond these is of evil.” In our everyday conversations, our words should be solid; we do not have to install oaths in our speech. We are to be true. Speaking with integrity is expected of Christ-followers. Anything outside of straightforward and honest speech invites God’s judgment (James 5:12).


 

Proverbs 12:22

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,

But those who deal faithfully are His delight.


James 5:12

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.




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