Preached @ Anchor Community Church on March 30th
Big Picture: If we are going to be people that proclaim the truth, it is imperative that we are people that live the truth!
It is not a shocker that taking oaths is right after purity in marriage and divorce. Oaths and vows in their time became distorted through superstitious wording, and hollow promises. This is not that different from the hollow vows we often make in our own time. Vows of chastity, marriage and business dealings are broken regularly.
As soon as we turn our vows into consumer dealings, and do not take into account the gospel and the fact that the people we are dealing with are made in God’s image, it’s easier to see them as a commodity, working an angle to get the best “Deal” for yourself.
Jesus comes into a similar world, where oaths and vows were made and broken to gain an edge that would make you wealthy, while others became poorer. It was the anti-gospel, when Christ; who was rich became poor, so that we would become rich (See 2 Corinthians 8:9). We are not to be a people that “Cross our fingers” or “Swear to God” with no intention of keeping such vows.
In our passage today, Jesus continues to show us what kingdom life looks like, and as usual, it’s different than how the world sees it. He makes Two Points Clear:
From the Head…
Stop Playing Games With God (Matthew 5:33-36)
As we have seen with the other antithesis’ Jesus is not correcting the law, but He is making the people aware of the truth of law and how religion and sin has distorted it for their own gain.
In this passage Jesus corrects the aberration by using hyperbole again when He says, “do not take an oath.” It is biblically clear that Jesus isn’t making a blanket statement, since oaths and vows were a normal way to make promises in that culture, and were governed by truthfulness in the Old Testament (See Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21), were made by God (See Genesis 9:9-17; Psalm 132:11; Hebrews 6:17-19), as well as, Paul (2 Corinthians 1:18; Galatians 1:20).
Then what is the issue here? As always; our heart intention. We often play games with God and bargain and barter and take oaths to get what we want out of the situation. We are called to be people of integrity.
First, our context helps us realize that the actual command was not to swear by “heaven, earth, our head,” etc. Why so? Matthew 23:16-22 helps us realize something that we have found to be true. Many of the Pharisees had started a practice of swearing to other things to lessen their commitment to whatever they were swearing to. So if you swore to heaven that may have more weight than earth, but it didn’t carry the weight of God’s name, which they avoided so they wouldn’t be held to their promises.
Jesus’ answer here is that doesn’t matter, because God is both sovereign and omnipotent, and the creator of all things, so when you swear to those things, it is the same as swearing to God.
Be People of Integrity (Matthew 5:37)
Secondly, Jesus commands kingdom dwellers to “Let what you say be simply yes or no!” In other words, be people of integrity. He gives importance to His command by reminding us that anything less than that comes from the “Evil” one! Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).
We lie, because we either don’t want people to know who we really are, or we want them to think more highly of us, or we want to deceive in order to control the situation. We do this, because our idols still point to other things that give us satisfaction and worth beside our relationship with Jesus.
…to the Heart
We are a culture of litigation, and wrangling over what was meant by certain words, in order to control and manipulate our little worlds. This same wrangling is often taken into our own private lives in order to control, manipulate and justify our actions. We become like Satan and ask, “Did scripture really say…?”
The way we swear and take oaths is the way we will be judged by those around us. Are our vows hollow? When we “Swear to God,” to we mean what we say, or is it a flippant saying? Prayerfully we can be men and women of integrity, because we have a savior who did what he promised eons ago. He became sin, so that we could have His righteousness!
Questions To Ponder
- How is lying destructive to our relationship with God and one another?
- Why is lying wrong?
- Is there ever a time to lie?
- In what ways to we make false oaths to God and others?
- When you lie, why do you do it?
For Further Reading
A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins
The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti
For further dialogue with the sermon go to www.anchorlongbeach.wordpress.com