How good is your word? When you say you are going to do something, do you get it done? Living in Mexico has really stretched us in this regard. The use of “mañana” means “tomorrow” or “sometime in the future.” David and I have always prided ourselves on being full of integrity. We want our word to mean something. If we are going to deviate from that spoken promise, we make every attempt to communicate the change. It is not necessarily the case here in the Mexican culture. Mañana is for sure sometime in the future, it’s just not a particular time you can rely on.
I suppose that goes along with what Jesus is saying here about not vowing to do something. If you vow it, you must do it. That can be restrictive, depending on what you vow to do. When you use God’s name in your vow, Jewish law would suggest God is now a party to your vow or promise. We would say that God is there whether he’s mentioned or not.
What sorts of vows is Jesus talking about do you think? Could it be a vow to repay a debt, stay in a marriage, provide help for a given charity? Do you remember the promises we made as children? “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” That was pretty morbid, wasn’t it? Why would we have said such a thing? And what was the anecdote for a promise if unkept? If you weren’t seriously planning on keeping the promise in the first place, you would cross your fingers behind your back. Somehow that made it so your promise was not “binding.”
I’m with Jesus. Don’t make an oath in the first place.
When we look at this passage, we see that Jesus is teaching us how to be honest and full of integrity. These are both qualities that we as business owners want to demonstrate for our customers.
Jesus tells us that instead of making a vow, make a statement. Say, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.” This is so your intention is known in a simple way. You aren’t swearing you’ll do something or promising. You have simply made a declaration. Broken promises lead to hard feelings and distrust. Promises are to be special. Once trust is lost, it is lost. I’ve heard an interesting quote, but I’m not sure the source. “People with good intentions make promises but people with good character keep them.”
Can you remember a time that you vowed or promised to do something? Did you follow through? If not, why not? Would it have been better to not given your word in the first place? Take some time today to think about who it is you trust.
Let’s pray. Lord, help me to be careful when it comes to making promises. I never want to hurt someone with my best intention. I want to be known as an honest and trustworthy person. I want to be the one people look to for help. Use me to bring hope to a dishonest world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.