GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 17)
The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus. Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament. The greatest sequel to this instruction is that Jesus, in all he was and was to do, came not to set aside or annual the Law but to fulfill it. In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…’It is said, but I say…’ (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43). Separating the counterfeit from the Real.
So far we have learned that the measure of God looks at the heart and not just outward actions. Again, the scribes were following the artificial letter of the law without a heart obedience. They would warn against a vow or oath in the name of God, that was not the problem – it was a vow or oath FALSELY. The emphasis was on truthfulness.
Matthew 5:33-37. 33 “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.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.[a]
1. Making a Promise Without Integrity. Again, we are in a day and time of not only throw away relationships but verbal babble that fills our airwaves and has little to any meaning or integrity that can be relied on. It is important that James reminds us to be quick to listen, slow to speak James 1:19. Here the religious leaders took the prohibition against false oaths (Lev 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deut 23:21) and twisted to to prohibit oaths in any manner. That is not the point. Giving our word with the intention to keep our promise, to a commitment to truthfulness, is honorable in the Kingdom.
2. Keeping Our Word Without Exception. This is character and integrity that has to come from the heart. It is internal. It is measured by the character of the speaker. The prohibition here is against hypocrisy, against false promises. The old adage “I swear on my Mother’s grave” is not only unnecessary but inappropriate here. Simply letting our word – our “yes and no” say what we mean, and mean what we say. Anything different is from the devil.
As a young man in my 20s, I struck a deal with Morris A., who, on a handshake, sold me 20 acres in Clackamas County. No down payment. Just the promise to sell on a contract. A week later Morris was approached by a pastor, of all people, who upon learning the deal was ONLY a handshake at present, advised Morris that he was not bound to that deal – he could sell to this man, who wanted that land and other land owned by Morris. Morris looked at the man, squinted his eyes, and said, “Sir, my word is my bond.” I bought the land and kept it for something like 30 years.
That is the point here. My word is my bond. Make your promises carefully if need be, but then, with your word, even with a handshake, keep your promise. And even before any writings or contracts follow. And that is from a lawyer! Next week – the issue of pay back and retaliation! Stay well this week.
— John Moore