Summary: We continue in our look at a day in the life of Christ, looking at his comments on lying in the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus hasn’t even gotten to coffee break yet and already he has shaken people’s worlds in what their conception of happiness and righteousness are. He has talked about how not killing was part of the moral fabric of society, respecting life from conception to natural death kept society from destroying itself. But he tells us that we if are to be Christ followers, if we are to call ourselves by his name it has to go deeper then that, we have to go back to the root cause of murder and not even hate.
Then he tells those around him that by the law they were forbidden to commit adultery, the second taboo. As a matter of fact the penalty in Judaism was the same for adultery as it was for murder. But again Jesus doesn’t simply expect us to keep the law he expects us, those who profess to follow him to do better then that. The only person that you should think about being intimate with, physically or emotionally is your spouse. Any more then that starts you down a path that can lead to adultery. And if that wasn’t enough Jesus raises the bar for divorce and says that Christian couples need to work hard at their marriages and only consider divorce when their marriages have been shattered by infidelity.
And here we are in Matthew 5:33 And Jesus deals with the next Old Testament principle on the list “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ Deuteronomy 23:21-22 contains the law laid down concerning oats, and this simply means promising to do something. The Jewish teachers had always insisted on the paramount importance of a person’s word. The Rabbis declared that “One who gives his word and changes it is as bad as an idolater” As a matter of fact the Rabbinical school of Shammai even forbade normal polite courtesies, like complimenting a bride on her looks when she was in fact plain.
Two things brought oat swearing to a head during the time of Christ, the first was taking oaths on frivolous things, and we do that today don’t we, “Honest, I swear, that truck almost hit me” The second problem was even worse and that was evasive swearing. People had decided that some oaths were binding and others weren’t. So if you made an oath on God’s name it was binding, but if you swore by heaven, or earth or Jerusalem then it was less binding. The thought being that if God’s name was used then he became a partner with you in the statement. Just a little pet peeve here, I think that some people, believers included, use the name of God much too lightly and I don’t just mean cussing, Angela has a T-shirt that says “God’s last name isn’t dammit” But I mean when we use God as an exclamation in our Conversation, keep it simply the only time you should use the word God is when you are talking about Him or to Him. By the way that was free.
Have you ever sat down and listened to someone seriously trying to explain the difference between lies, white lies and fibbing? When I first went to Bible College, as a new believer, I had that conversation with someone who had grown up in the church. “No really, a fib isn’t really lying, it’s more like a white lie.” Jesus recognized that an unredeemed society needed to have something to govern them other then their innate honesty. Order cannot be maintained without some kind of legal machinery to insure that promises would be kept.
Christ didn’t come to destroy or change law for society, instead he came to fulfil it through the Christian. Not only should the Christian always keep their word they shouldn’t have to swear an oath to make sure they keep it. The thought shouldn’t be going through their minds, “Did I actually promise to do that? Or did I just say I would?” It doesn’t matter if you promised or not if you said you would do it then you need to do it. Christ told us in Matthew 5:37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Does that mean that Christians are never to take oaths? And if so how do we explain Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:23 Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. and again in Galatians 1:20 I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie.
There are times that you will have to take an oath, if you are on a witness stand in a court of law you swear to tell the truth, if you join the armed forces or a police department you swear to serve. I realize that sometimes they will let you get away with saying I affirm instead of swear, but really isn’t that just semantics?