Jesus taught his disciples that it was not necessary to take oaths when they communicated with others or when they made a commitment to someone to complete an action or task. In essence we should be able to trust the words of others as truth and feel confident that what someone says or promises they will try their best to do. There are situations when we will make promises with the best of intentions and are unable to maintain our commitment. In these circumstances, we should make every effort to make amends. Let people know in advance that you will be late for a meeting for example, or that you will not be able to deliver on a promise.
People learn to measure our integrity by how we deliver on what we have promised to do. And even if we are unable to deliver on a promise that we made every effort to rectify the situation. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9). At times we can make off the cuff promises or tell white lies to make someone else feel better or to make ourselves look and feel good. We set other people up when we make empty promises and the emotional impact is one of disappointment and mistrust.
Do not make a promise that you are unlikely to keep or one that you know you did not plan to deliver on in the first place. In Acts, Ananias and Sapphire sold their land and committed to give the money to the Church. They colluded and decided to lie to Peter to make him believe that they were giving all the money from the land. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land” (Acts 5:3). Peter warned that they had lied not to man but unto God.
We know the rest of the story that both Ananias and Sapphire fell down dead and were carried away and buried. I think most of us consider this story to be quite harsh and wonder why their judgement had to be so extreme. Peter’s view of the situation was that the land belonged to them anyway. If they wanted to sell the land and keep the money it was theirs. The challenge was that they decided to bear false witness. They made the decision to lie and cause deception in order to make themselves look good in front of others.
I am not advocating that anyone who is deceitful and deceptive should fall dead. What I am urging us to do it to speak the truth and let our yes be yes and our no be no. Make sure that your promises are made from a place of genuine intention. If you cannot keep a promise then let people know. We teach people that we are trustworthy and have integrity when they can trust that what we say is the truth.