by Kim Starr
In “ancient times,” people took oaths very seriously. Whatever they swore on, added an earnestness to their oath. If a person invoked the Lord’s name, he would be absolutely bound in the strongest possible terms and, if he violated what he said, he would not only be accountable to society but also to God. Today, we casually throw around words, including swear words, and think little about it. When we swear to something, we certainly do not expect to be bound by it.
In the passage for today, Jesus is not only exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, but He is also shining a spotlight on our character and integrity. He challenges us to live according to what we say and believe. That means, if we live according to what we say, there is no reason to swear by anything to prove the earnestness of our words. Jesus wants us to be straightforward, transparent, honest, and responsible in all that we say and do.
If we are to be known as followers of Jesus, our words must be true and purposeful to avoid confusion or misrepresentation. We must look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Are my words authentic, or are they manipulative or dishonest? Do my words support or contradict my actions? Can they hold me accountable for what I am saying or committing to?” We need to be cautious about what we say and consider whether we will genuinely be able to fulfill what we say we will do. If we cannot, we need to hold our tongue.
We need to ask God to show us when we have told lies and bend the truth to suit our own desires. Then we need to make every word we speak a truthful word, unadorned and unqualified. We need to mean what we say and say what we mean. That will have a revolutionary impact on our integrity, on our reputation and, above all, on our witness.
Dear Lord, our words often get us in trouble without our even thinking about what we are saying. Help us stop swearing. Help us live up to the higher standard Jesus calls us to maintain. Let our “Yes” mean yes and our “No” mean no. Help us follow through on any commitments we make. Let our honesty and integrity show through in all we say and do. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen.