Summary: God calls us to the highest standards: 1. Always be believable (vs. 33-37). 2. Bend over backwards for other people (vs. 38-42). 3. Make sure you belong to the Father's family (vs. 43-48).
Reach for God's Perfect Righteousness
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - April 23 2013
*When Randy Hawkins was in his 40's, he played softball on a team a lot of younger guys. During one game, Randy was playing third base when a line drive was hit right over his head. He jumped as high as he could, but couldn't quite get a glove on it.
*At the end of the inning, when everyone was heading to the dugout, the left fielder caught up with Randy. Randy's friend held up his thumb and first finger a couple of inches apart. And he said, "That much."
*The older third-baseman replied: "I know, I almost had it!" But his younger friend laughed and shot back, "No, I mean that's how far you got off the ground." (1)
*When it came to softball, Randy Hawkins needed to go higher. And when it comes to our spiritual lives, WE need to go higher. Here Jesus continues to call us up to God's highest standards in life.
1. First: Always be believable.
*The Lord set this standard for us in vs. 33-37, where Jesus said:
33. "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.'
34. But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne;
35. nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.
37. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one."
*Some people think that this is a prohibition against ever taking an oath. But Matthew Rogers gave some important background information on this subject. He pointed out that oaths were commonly abused in Jesus' day. So to protect God's name against oath-breaking, the Jews introduced other things by which to swear. "People's attention had gotten shifted away from the vow itself to the formula used when making it, so Jewish teachers had a tough job on their hands. When there was a dispute over keeping your word, it was up to them to determine which oaths were actually binding as allusions to God's name.
*The more closely an oath related to God's name, the more binding it was. You didn't have to be so particular about keeping vows in which God's name had not been used. Some people thought it was harmless to deceive if they swore oaths by something like their right hand. Swearing by heaven and earth was not binding, nor was swearing by Jerusalem. However, if you swore toward Jerusalem, then you had to keep your vow."
*Matthew Rogers also said: "Remember when we were kids and made a promise? Sometimes we would say, 'Cross my heart and hope to die; stick a needle in my eye.'" (2)
*Did anyone ever stick a needle in your eye? -- No, of course not, because we didn't really mean it. And most everybody knew that you didn't have to keep a promise if you had your fingers crossed. That's about how casual the adults were about oaths in Jesus' day.
*And the point of all of this is what Jesus said here in vs. 37: "Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." In other words, let your speech always be sincere. Live a life of integrity. Be consistent in your life and your language.
*That's a lesson our world desperately needs to learn today. One New York Times article reported that 91% of people regularly don't tell the truth. Twenty percent said they can't get through a single day without premeditated white lies. (2)
*It's getting worse. And this matters more that we can measure, because at the core, all relationships are based on trust. Truth also matters because dishonesty ruins our witness with outsiders. Robert Tamasy wrote about a Christian friend who was the general manager for a chain of newspapers.
*One of his responsibilities was setting advertising policies. And at one point he ordered that advertisers who used a Christian symbol or Bible verse on business cards or stationery would be required to pay cash in advance. That man wasn't trying to persecute Christians. He was a Christian. Why did he start that policy? -- Because the folks who used the Christian symbols were generally his worst paying accounts. (3)
*But God calls us to reach for the highest standards. Always be believable.
2. Also bend over backwards for other people.
*The Lord set this standard for us in vs. 38-42, where Jesus said: