“Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: ‘This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said’” (Numbers 30:1-2 NIV).
God’s desire has always been that his people keep their word. This involves honesty in every aspect of that word. If we are honest, we are “free of deceit, truthful and sincere” (Oxford Dictionary of English). This means that what we say must be true, but it is more than that. It also means that we do what we say and that we don’t use truth in a way that would deceive another person.
When God gave the Israelites a summation of his law in the Ten Commandments, the idea of honesty permeated his instructions. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:1-17). Each of these requires honesty: honesty with God, honesty with each other, and honesty with ourselves.
As we read through Numbers 30, we find that there were provisions made for the head of the household to exercise the spiritual leadership God expected of him. If, as a husband or father, he learned of a vow his wife or daughter had made, he could free her of that vow if he judged it to be unwise (Numbers 30:3-15). If he said nothing, then what she promised had to be fulfilled. His silence was confirmation of the vow that had been made.
God still wants his people to value their word. Jesus condemned the use of oaths when we make a promise or statement (Matthew 5:33-37). From what he said, we can see that people had made some oaths binding and others not binding, dependant upon what was sworn by. We probably know people who will swear by almost anything to try to get us to believe them. Why do people do this? Is it not because they are not always honest? Jesus emphasised that we need to be truthful: “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). This is repeated in James 5:12. We need to be a people of our word.
Not only do we need to do what we say, what we say needs to be truthful. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25 ESV). Because we are Christians, we must put away dishonesty. Notice, in the tenses that are used, that Paul assumes that this had already been done. If we have put away all falsehood, we then speak only the truth and it must be with everyone. Remember that Jesus defined our neighbor as any person, as in the story about the good Samaritan.
The reason we must be truthful at all times is quite simple: “for we are members one of another.” This is also translated as “for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25 NIV). The various parts of our physical body send truthful information to our brain. If they don’t, we realize that something is seriously wrong! It works the same for Christians. We are all part of the body of Christ, so we must always be truthful in our communication with the other parts of his body.
Honesty is not only the best policy but, for the Christian, it is the only policy!
Readings for next week:
20 March – Numbers 26
21 March – Numbers 27
22 March – Numbers 28
23 March – Numbers 29
24 March – Numbers 30