And do not take an oath . . . Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”. Matthew 5:36-37
Once, during an encounter with an addict who was trying to sell me on some business transaction, I realized that almost everything he said was a lie. I wasn’t offended, I was just incredulous as lie after lie rolled of his tongue with the expectation that I would believe him. I knew he was still using, and thus, incapable of honesty. I didn’t have much to offer him in this condition and I certainly wasn’t buying what he was selling. Only an utter fool would have trusted this man in any business proposition.
Lest you think I’m being too judgmental, the reason I knew his lies so well is because I’ve been there. I’ve been the addict-liar. This is what addiction does: It makes liars out of us. The alcoholic insists he doesn’t have a problem. The rageaholic shouts that he’s not angry. The greedy man is just trying to provide for his family and the gossip claims to be sharing prayer requests.
When we indulge in any destructive behavior, we naturally feel shame. When we get caught sneaking chocolate while dieting, we don’t easily confess our struggle with self-control. We claim a low blood sugar or some such nonsense. When threatened with exposure of our failures, we begin lying in an attempt to protect ourselves.
Jesus, in today’s passage, insisted that as Christians, we must adhere to strict integrity and we must be known for complete honesty. We’re not to try and convince others by swearing oaths. If we live honorably, others will believe us. If we’re living in addiction, there is little we’ll do to convince anyone of our integrity.
It’s usually a safe bet that the harder an addict tries to convince you of his truthfulness – I swear on my Grandmother’s grave! – the more likely it is that he’s full of lies. I used to do this, promising and swearing that I’d never use again.
Jesus said however, that an honest person simply relies on his behavior as evidence of his integrity. It’s only a desperate liar that swears by heaven and earth that he’ll stop. I no longer make oaths that I’ll never relapse. I simply pursue faith and recovery every day. This is the honest truth that convinces others of authentic recovery and transformation.