Summary: Message describing the need to be people of or word, and avoiding the need to "swear."
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
November 7, 2004
Have you ever met a person who is constantly saying things like, "I swear I’m telling you the truth," or "Honest!" or even something like, "as God is my witness..."
Have you ever wondered why they say stuff like that? I think it’s because they know they have a reputation of not telling the truth, or at least stretching it to near the breaking point.
We all know people that we can’t trust to keep their word, and if the truth be told, we may have even been that person at times.
Well Jesus says in our passage today that we are to say what we mean and mean what we say.
It’s at the foundation of what being a Christian is all about - that we are truthful, because God is truthful.
Let’s turn to this passage, shall we, and look at what Jesus said about being a person who keeps his or her word.
Please turn with me to Matthew 5:33-37. If you are using the Bibles in the seats, this can be found on page 684.
By the way, your note-taking guide says this is found in 6:33, but that’s a typo that I missed when I made up the guide.
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear 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 Simply let your `Yes’ be `Yes,’ and your `No,’ `No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."
Before I get into this too far, let me just be sure to explain that Jesus is not talking about the kind of swearing you hear when someone is using a vocabulary that consists of four-letter words and derogatory mentions of the name of God!
He is talking about taking oaths and telling the truth, okay?
Let’s look at four truths regarding this whole issue of saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
1. Swearing makes God a partner in your oath.
What do you mean, PB? Well, look back at verses 34-35:
34 But I tell you, Do not swear 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.
Everything belongs to God, and so including heaven and earth in your oath brings God into the picture.
And He may want nothing to do with your oath!
In the John Wayne movie, Red River, Wayne’s character, Thomas Dunsen, is the owner of 10,000 cattle on a hard drive to market. In that movie, every time he has to kill someone, either because they tried to move him off the land or stop the drive, he always read Scripture over their grave.
After another such episode, one of the cowhands looks at another one and says, "Plantin’ and readin’ - plantin’ and readin’. Fill a man with lead, stick ’im in the ground, and then read words on ’im. Why, when you’ve killed a man, why try to read the Lord in as a partner on the job?"
The implication is that God wouldn’t want in on the job. Well, He may not want in on what’s coming out of your mouth.
Maybe your oath is based on bad information, or based on an emotional surge not supported by knowledge of the facts. Or maybe your oath is just a plain lie because you have no intention of keeping it.
Jesus is saying, "Look, if you need to invoke heaven and earth to back up your oath, then something’s wrong in how others perceive you.
You shouldn’t have to do it. He even goes on to say not to swear by your head, because you can’t make even one hair black or white. I’m more worried about it staying in than about what color it is!
Bottom line: don’t bring in God to your oaths. Your character should reflect your intentions.
The second truth we need to examine in saying what you mean and meaning what you say is that...
2. Breaking an oath reflects badly on God.
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?