Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made." But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply "Yes", or "No". Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
The new righteousness requires us to be painfully honest; honest with ourselves and honest with others in word and in deed. Jesus is saying that such honesty would never require an oath or a vow, because our word would be better. Oaths and vows are used because people are prone to lie.
This honesty is to affect and guide the way we conduct ourselves at all times. George Washington is quoted as saying: "Be not apt to relate news, if you know not the truth thereof. Speak no evil of the absent, for it is unjust. Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise. There is but one straight course and that is to seek truth, and pursue it steadily. Nothing but harmony, honesty, industry and frugality are necessary to make us a great nation."
Honesty is a requirement if there is to be trust among people. It is a necessity for living in a relationship with another person. It is a requirement for doing business, or for politics or for building a great nation. Yet, University of Massachusetts psychologist, Robert Feldman, found through his decade long research that 60% of people lie during a 10 minute conversation and that they average two to three lies during that timeframe. We read in Psalms 116:11 and in Romans 1:29 none of us has told the truth on all occasions and we are all prone to lying.
The new righteousness requires us to be honest, so honest that no oath or vow is ever necessary. Obviously, this requires the help of the Holy Spirit and the honesty and humility to admit we need it.
Tomorrow, we study a new justice.