“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, ‘Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply Yes or No; anything more than this comes from evil.’ ” Matthew 5:33-37 (ESV)
Biblically, we are expected for our word to be our bond. In this scripture, Jesus is reiterating the importance of telling the truth. Being true to our word reveals a character of integrity and honesty. Such character was revealed by my grandfather. As a poor farmer in a rural area of Mississippi, he borrowed money from a bank to raise a crop. That loan was sealed by his verbal promise and a handshake. When the harvest came, the first bill paid was the loan. He could be trusted because of who he was. His good relationship with the banker and anyone else was because he kept his vows and promises.
Today, many live shrewdly looking for legal loopholes to avoid commitments they made. Instead of being trustworthy, they destroy trust and increase needless forms to be signed so there is no way to squirm out of a commitment made. Only with volumes of paperwork is a person trusted.
The more honest we are, the less proof is needed to verify who we are. When a person is caught being less than honest, they talk too much. With many words, they swear they tell the truth. The more the chatter, the less the credibility is developed. Truth loses itself in too many words.
The honest man feels sufficient with saying, “Yes,” or “No.” They feel no need to clarify or justify because they already know, their word is their bond. When our conversation and our character are consistently honest, there is no need for verbal crutches or legal jargon to cover and compensate a faulty character.
The Lord expects us to be honest and trustworthy. Only then can we truly say we live to represent Him. Jesus entire mission was to fulfill the promise of God to establish a new covenant with us that was not based on our effort, but His. With impeccable obedience, He committed himself, even to the point of death, to prove his promises could be trusted.
Live today with such integrity that even if the paperwork must be signed because of the character flaws of others, those who ask you to sign know you are good on a handshake.
Dr. John Temple is chaplain of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office. From the Shepherd's Heart is published Fridays in The Meridian Star.