Honesty and Integrity in Faith

Scripture Reading

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Matt. 5:33-37

What is an Oath

Without delving too deeply into ancient Israelite culture and history, the swearing of oaths was a long standing custom among people dating all the way back to the book of Genesis. Oaths were made even by the Lord himself such as when he spoke to Isaac and said, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father.” [Gen. 26:3]  This swearing of oaths in essence served like a promise or commitment to the people throughout history.

Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:


Making statements of this nature today means something like the phrase “you have my word” or “I promise” which tends to harmonize with the very literal Greek translation from the above scripture, “Let be but your word, yea, yea…”. Another example of this from the Lord was when he said to his people in perhaps a more ominous tone, “But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation.” [Jer. 22:5]

Importance of Oaths

For Israelites, an oath carried considerable weight and importance on the individual to fulfill and live up to the actual oath made as shown in this passage, “Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with [his] lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever [it be] that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth [of it,] then he shall be guilty in one of these.” [Lev. 5:4]  The oath was more akin to a promise or the bond of a person’s word on something and at one time it meant a lot to make such an oath.

Making False Oaths

The comments from Jesus in this week’s scripture were therefore highlighting the mockery and hypocrisy of the religious rulers during that period in time. This cautionary comment on making false oaths though dated far back in history where it was similarly noted in scripture, “And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these [are things] that I hate, saith the LORD.” [Zech. 8:17] Jesus’ comments therefore were not new to the dilemma of false oaths but his message carried more weight since they pertained to the religious rulers of the Jews.

In short, the religious rulers had defaulted into oaths more for oratory show and were swearing oaths by things such as gold or altar offerings, irrespective that these things were sanctified by something far more important. They were also failing to keep their word which conflicted with the very commands from the Lord on making oaths and vows as stated from this scripture, “If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” [Num. 30:2] This promise was reflective upon the measure of a person’s integrity to him or herself and others and hence it carried with it implications either way.

…and love no false oath: for all these [are things] that I hate, saith the LORD.

Zech. 8:17b

Scripture in general abounds with guidance on morals and ethical conduct of a similar nature. This is because they are deeply intertwined with faithful living in that, “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another. And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God. I [am] the LORD.” [Lev. 19:11-12]  Here we see the importance of not making false oaths by swearing falsely in God’s name. In essence though, does this not come down to being truthful to one another and being able to tell the truth under all circumstances? Let us consider this premise of being truthful or honest a little further in scripture.

Integrity Matters

Solomon provides a rather vivid description on how both mercy and truth should be at the forefront of believers in the Lord by highlighting the need for this inward motivation, “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.” [Prov. 3:3-4] While figuratively expressed, the binding of mercy and truth around your neck and writing them on the table of your heart helps to further illustrate their importance in living a life of faith.

In furtherance to this, King David also scripted a phrase that helps to underscore the interrelation of upright moral characteristics in believers, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [each other.] ” [Ps. 85:10]  What a compelling and descriptive verse on the importance of honesty and integrity in faith.

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [each other.]Ps. 85:10

This inward character of serving the Lord in truth was also emphasized by Samuel while speaking to the Israelites, “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great [things] he hath done for you.” [1 Sam. 12:24] To serve the Lord in truth is illustrative of honesty and integrity in faith since this creates the foundation for walking in faith with the Lord. For any notion of swearing an oath in his name, it certainly must rest on serving the Lord in truth. For this purpose and intent, let us now transition to explore how transforming faith in Christ can change your life.

Faith In Christ

There is an emphasis here on the importance of starting with the transforming faith found in Jesus since this brings the spirit of truth to dwell inside believers, “[Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” [John 14:17] This is truly where people of faith are able to draw their source of honesty and integrity from through the indwelling spirit of truth. Truth starts in the gospel of Christ and Jesus proclaimed this transforming change through belief in him, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:32]

Jesus taught extensively on why honesty and integrity matter in faith before a holy God since being truthful leads to living in the light as he stated, “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” [John 3:21] From this new birth in Christ, believers are also able to properly worship him in truth, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” [John 4:23] Truth is indeed at the core of God since he himself cannot lie [Heb. 6:18]

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light

John 3:21a

This is the eternal hope of believers in coming to the truth that rests within the gospel of Christ, “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.” [Col. 1:5] Laying up this foundation of truth is also reflective of the good ground in the parable of the sower as shared by Jesus with his disciples, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep [it,] and bring forth fruit with patience.” [Luke 8:15]

Let us close off this Bible Study on honesty and integrity in faith by highlighting the many noble character traits that should prevail among believers in Christ as recorded by the apostle Paul. Truth and honesty are at the forefront of them, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.” [Phil. 4:8]

When honesty and integrity are at the foundation and forefront of your faith in Christ, any such notion of making an oath or promise will be reflected in them. This is a living faith, living through a personal relationship in the Lord Jesus Christ and living a faith life will likely supersede any need to make an oath in the first place.

Bible Study Questions

  1. In the study of why honesty and integrity matter in faith, how would you describe an oath that was used in scripture?
  2. In the section, False Oaths, name two points that make the oaths false.
  3. In the section, Integrity Matters, what did Solomon say we should do with mercy and truth?
  4. In the section, Faith in Christ, God’s Spirit is called the Spirit of truth, true or false?
  5. In John 8:32, Jesus speaks about knowing the truth and the truth will make you free. How would you explain this to someone?
  6. If God wants us to pursue truth, honesty, justice, purity and virtue, why do so many people pursue the opposite?
  7. Is there an area in your life where honesty and integrity may be lacking? How could you change this for your faith walk?

WORD GUIDE – * (sojourn – stay in a place for a period of time) * (desolation – barren or laid waste) * (reprobate – depraved or unprincipled)

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