One of my favorite aspects of Christianity is the impact it has on daily life. The details of everyday existence are not overlooked.
True, you may not find anything directly speaking to punctuality in the Bible. You’re not going to find it by flipping to your concordance, nor is there a commandment on showing up on time. But it is in there.
Again, you have heard that the people in the old days were told—‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord’, but I say to you, don’t use an oath at all. Don’t swear by Heaven for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth for it is his footstool, nor by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great king. No, and don’t swear by your own head, for you cannot make a single hair—white or black! Whatever you have to say let your ‘yes’ be a plain ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ a plain ‘no’—anything more than this has a taint of evil. -Matthew 5:33-37 (Phillips)
At first glance this passage has a quick and simple application. Don’t make large oaths, only say yes and no. Ok, got it. Instead of saying “I swear to God,” I will say “Yes,” or “No.” But after spending time with this passage it seemed to expand and invade the cracks and crevices of my daily life. (Isn’t that the nature of Scripture, being alive, active, and all that?)
The original recipients of this word were Jews, used to living according to the commandment found in Leviticus 19:12 Do not swear falsely by the name of your God and so profane His name. This teaching could be easily kept – especially for those who were only concerned by external obedience. “Sure, I can keep this law. I’ll just be sure to not add God’s name unless I actually mean it.” But here, in this upside down sermon, Jesus is pushing his listeners to abandon oath making completely. And by doing so He breaks apart the levels of sacred oaths and daily conversations. He is removing the option to have a setting in which we don’t have to really mean what we say. In essence, these words in Matthew 5 are urging us to pursue a life of integrity and truth. Because those whose lives emanate truth, honesty, and integrity are not asked to make oaths to prove the validity of their word.
“Extra words, especially ‘strong’ ones, call into question the speaker’s basic truthfulness. If you need to add them, maybe we can’t trust you at all.” -NT Wright
It is as simple as Aesop’s famous fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. If you consistently speak falsely, if you consistently fail to do what you say you’ll do, if you consistently exaggerate or distort the truth, you will need to make a very large effort, with very large words attached to it, to prove yourself as speaking truth. And to put even more weight on this issue, every word we now speak bears the name of God. There’s no room anymore left for us to leave God’s name out of our commitments or pledges, because as Christians, God’s name is forever imprinted on our words and actions. So whatever we say, whatever we do, is done and said with the name of Christ written over it.
Ok. That’s a pretty obvious, well-known Christian value. Truth, Honesty, Integrity. We all got that in kindergarten when we learned the 10 Commandments. But perhaps this teaching goes further than we allow it to. Maybe it goes as far as being on time.
Because if we are people who only speak truth we are people who can be trusted. And if we say we will do something, we will follow through. And if we schedule something we won’t flake out. Our yeses will be yes, our noes will be no. Of course this can be applied to “big” life events, such as testifying in court or taking wedding vows. But the reality is that the majority of our life is made up of minor events. And it is here that we prove ourselves as people of integrity. People who do what they say they’ll do. People that take their testament as a Christ-follower seriously, and don’t hurt their witness by breaking their word.
“We should be known as people whose word can be relied on. If you are a Christian you should be known for your word. Let us be people of the Word, who, because of God’s Word and His faithfulness to it, can reflect that kind of integrity so that people can trust what we say.” -R.C. Sproul
It starts in the simple things. It starts by showing up to coffee dates on time, by arriving to work punctually and prepared, by learning how to say no so that our yeses are not hindered. It is here in the every day that we prove our integrity, that we give a good name to Christ-followers.