Summary: Jesus calls us to tell the truth in a way that goes far beyond being legally accurate.
Liar Liar – Matthew 5:33-37
Amish buggies probably don’t have speedometers.
How do they know if they’re breaking the law? They just know they’re not because you can’t speed in a buggy – you’ve got a two horse power vehicle.
You always know you’re going far beyond the demands of the law, even in a school zone.
Amish guys don’t have radar detectors. When they see a police car turning on its lights, they don’t say, “Oh man, is that for me? How fast was I going?” I say this not only to make fun of Amish people, but to make a point: They’re built to live above the demands of the law, and so they never worry about breaking it.
One of the purposes Jesus has in preaching his sermon on the mount is, not to create Amish people, but to call us to live so far above the demands of the law of God, that we almost don’t need to wonder if we have obeyed the standard. He is speaking to build a people who live by a radically different standard:
Luke 10:27 YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
If we are radically devoted to that standard, we are automatically keeping the law. Because it is such a high standard that all of the law is automatically included in it.
If we ever find ourselves looking up at the demands of the law, we know we’re in sin – not because we under obligation to keep the letter of the law (Christ kept it for us and it was fulfilled in him.) But if we, ini our efforts to love God and love people, find ourselves not living up to the demands of the law, something is wrong. Because the command to love builds in to us the ability to go far beyond the law.
Let me give an example: the tithe. The Old Testament law was that people were to give the first ten percent of their increase (it was actually more complex than that and amounted to more than 10%.) But for the sake of argument, say 10%.
And it is true that that tithe was for the Israelites and connected with the temple system. The temple system was torn down and replaced with Jesus so we are no longer under temple law (that temple doesn’t even exist anymore.)
And there is no new testament command for believers to tithe. We are told to give as the Lord prospers us. But, if we ever find ourselves giving less than 10%, we can be sure we’re not loving properly. So the law continues to be a spotlight on our lives to expose faith, to expose sin, to expose a love for God or lack thereof. When we have to look up to see the demands of the law, we need to ask, “Am I loving?”
Because we have been set free: not to break the law, but to live so far above its demands that we don’t need to worry about having a speedometer.
And the area of the law that Jesus expounds for us tonight is the area dealing with our speech.
I. Vows and Oaths – Good Things Turned Bad
Matthew 5:33-37 33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.
People had always been commanded not to lie. They knew from the ten commandments that telling the truth was a good thing.
But they would often solemnize that truth by swearing an oath. By swearing that oath, they allowed the people who heard them to have much more confidence that what they were saying was true: If I told you I would pay you for a field, you might believe me, but you might doubt: he wasn’t being serious. He was lying. He wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying. He was speaking hypothetically.
But if I made an oath to pay you a certain amount of money for a field, you would know I meant what I was saying, that I wasn’t joking, that I wasn’t lying, because I would swear by the name of God and I would have him to deal with if I broke my oath.
In Deuteronomy 10:20, God had even told people to swear oaths by his name “20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.”
And that law was designed to encourage truthfulness.
But people did what sinner will do: they used the fact that oaths existed as an excuse to lie when they did not swear an oath. “O, I said I’d buy that field for that amount, but I didn’t swear an oath so my word was not binding.”