“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the LORD.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33–37 NLT)
At the beginning of the movie Hook, Peter Banning, played by Robin Williams, tries to squeeze in one more meeting before a London trip with his family by scheduling it the same morning of his son’s last baseball game of the season. He tells his son that he promises he will still make it, saying, “My word is my bond!” However, by the time he makes it to the stadium, there is not a single person left on the field or in the stands. To make it up to him, Peter tells his son he promises to make it to six games next season, and he again states that his word is his bond, but by this point the damage has been done and his son can’t believe any of his promises.
On the surface, it seems as if Jesus is concerned about the kinds of promises we make or the words we say to make them, but taken with the whole of the Sermon on the Mount it becomes more apparent that Jesus is actually talking about the kinds of people we should be. Jesus is more interested in our integrity – how well our words and actions line up with each other – than in the words we use. Rather than working to make our word our bond, we should instead strive to be such people of integrity that we have no need for superlatives because everyone who knows us intrinsically trusts that we are honest. That is not to say this is an easy feat to accomplish, but it is worth the effort .
Ask yourself how trustworthy you think other people perceive you to be, then ask someone who knows you well how trustworthy they think you are, inviting them to share with utmost honest. If there is a disconnect between the two perceptions – yours and your friend’s – then there might be a gap in your integrity that is in need of being bridged.