Keeping your word (Can you be trusted?)


                “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your ‘Yes,’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Mathew 5: 33-37.)


                There are two types of oaths; a person can testify about the past, or they can testify about the future.  One is a testimony, the other is a prophecy of sorts.  In this scripture Jesus is referring to testimonies about the future.  God’s truth is revealed when what he has said comes to pass.  In a more limited way, God’s children make future plans, and fulfill them, and to do anything less would be lying.  In order to make an oath more permanent, and of greater importance, often times a person would invoke the name of God, and still others would swear by some other honorable thing.  For instance, sometimes when a person wants to affirm that they are telling the truth they might say, “I swear to God.”  They may also say, “I swear on my mother’s grave.”  Others might say, “If I’m lying then may lightning strike me dead,” in which case they would be using their lives as collateral to bolster their believability.

                Jesus was doing something in this scripture that sent shockwaves through the Jewish communities.  God had said that a person should ‘perform their oaths to the Lord.’  Jesus made his own words equal to God’s words, saying, “But I say to you do not swear at all.”  There was no disagreement between what Jesus was saying and what God had said.  He agreed with God that oaths made to the LORD were binding.  He knew how serious an offense it was to break such an oath; in turn, he urged his listeners to refrain from even make such an oath to begin with.  He went on to denounce four things that were commonly sworn by.  Swearing by heaven was to desecrate the Holy dwelling place of God.  Swearing by the earth was outlawed as well.  To swear by Jerusalem wasn’t right either, because it was the city in which Jesus was going to be king, and in which God Himself dwelled.  Lastly, Jesus forbade swearing by one’s own life.  In reference to using our own lives as collateral, Jesus made it clear that no one knew the time or hour that God had appointed for them to die.  How then could a person who didn’t know if they would be alive the next day make an oath to fulfill an obligation a month from then?  Oaths to God were eternal, and binding.  Since God required them to abide by their oaths there were very few instances when oaths were appropriate [It was better to not swear at all.] (Marriage may have been an exception, as it was an eternal covenant between a man and his wife before God.)  Anyone who needed to use God or some other Holy thing in an oath lacked integrity.  Many who have had trouble keeping their word have used God as a tool; something to motivate themselves to keep their word.  Making oaths can indicate that a person isn’t truly submitted to God.  Today, Jesus requires that when we say we are going to do something we do it.  When we say, “Yes,” God requires us to do what we have agreed to do.

                In our culture, tattoos are on the rise.  People have found them to be somewhat permanent modes of expression.  Recently I spoke with a girl who had numerous scriptures tattooed on her body.  She had been struggling to stay on task and live a life that was pleasing to God.  At some point, she felt the need to get His words put on her body.  When an eternal relationship with God isn’t present (or is weak) inside of a person, they make external reminders for themselves of something that is missing inside of them (this is not always the case.)  The same thing is true of those who say they are going to do something and don’t do it.  Many times, they feel that making an oath to the Lord will ‘seal the deal,’ but it very rarely changes anything.  The person is trying to exploit God for their own purposes, and this is why Jesus says that making oaths to the Lord is from the evil one.  God is not a thing to be used selfishly.  Instead, we are to simply keep our own word, and by doing so, God is pleased.

                Today, many have difficulties keeping their word.  If we are fickle, if we are given to saying one thing, and doing another, we are not followers of Jesus Christ.  There are cases where we may be sick, or an emergency arises, but aside from situations such as these, there is no excuse for missing appointments, letting others down, or cancelling at the last minute.  The Lord will not tolerate this type of behavior; it is lying in advance.  If a person who is not a Christian can be counted on to do what they say more than you or I, then we are not Christians.  Don’t make plans you can’t keep; in fact, the bible tells us that it is often better to replace ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with, “God willing, I will be there.”  As much as is possible, focus on the things you can accomplish today.  Don’t be a people pleaser, taking on more than you can possibly do because you want the approval of others; this will lead to broken promises; it’s okay to tell others no; it’s not okay to tell others yes, and then no.  When someone asks you for a favor, and you don’t have time, lovingly tell them no.  Don’t say yes and then not show up because you’re overwhelmed.  Be on time for things you’ve agreed to be on time for, and if you are going to be late, then call ahead to let them know.  [P.S.  The enemy will very often throw obstacles in your way that will test you…Perhaps that person you really wanted to go out with calls you last minute, and your group function interferes with a possible date.  Do you cancel on your group, thinking, “I’m sure they won’t mind?”  No; it is not pleasing to God to forgo your commitment to indulge in some selfish pursuit?  What you have agreed too, complete.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You now, and we ask and pray that You would give us the strength to complete everything that we commit ourselves too; we desire to be like You, and bring glory to You.  Lord, help us to be men and women of integrity; people who don’t need oaths, since our words can be trusted, because You are living in us.  Give us the conviction to complete whatever we have committed too.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

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