Summary: 1) Promising Speech, 2) False Speech, and 3) Godly Speech
Kids can be creative in so many ways. They have a great ability to see animals in the clouds, play with imaginary friends and make up wonderful stories. Unfortunately, at times the line that separates fact from fiction is not drawn clearly enough. That wonderful faculty for imagination can be misused in lying or deceiving others.
Fundamental to relationships is the aspect of truth. When we believe what someone is saying we can form a relational bond that results in the sharing and depths of thoughts and feelings. When we think that someone is lying to us or covering something up we tend not to trust them and share little with them.
In their consciences people know that truth is right and essential. That is one reason they go to such lengths to make what they say appear to be truthful. Our problem is in being truthful. Unfortunately, people are inclined to the truth only when it benefits them.
• The question for each of us is what is the pattern of our speech? Are we prone to say something and not follow through? Do we play word games and assure ourselves that “at least we didn’t lie”? If so, we do well to look at the teaching that Jesus has for us and learn from the Jews of Jesus’ day.
The ancient Jewish rabbis revered the idea of truth in principle, but in practice it was buried under their system of tradition, which over the centuries had continually cut God’s law down to fit their own sinful perspectives and purposes. In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus proceeds to expose the convenient distortion and contradiction of the divine revelation they claimed to love and teach. In these five verses Jesus sets forth:
1) Promising Speech, 2) False Speech, and 3) Godly Speech
1) Promising Speech. Matthew 5:33a
Matthew 5:33a "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).’ (ESV)
The traditional teaching that Jesus quotes here was a composite of ideas based on Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2, and Deuteronomy 23:21. The two vows mentioned here are from two different, but related, Greek terms. The first is from the verb epiorkeô, which means to perjure oneself, to swear falsely, to swear falsely/make false vows. The second is from the noun horkos, which literally means to enclose, as with a fence, or to bind together. The truth of an oath or vow is enclosed, bound, and therefore strengthened by that which is invoked on its behalf.
A clear description of an oath is given in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 6:16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. (ESV)
The name of something or someone greater than the person making the oath is invoked to give greater credibility to what is said. Any oath calling on God invites Him to witness the truthfulness of what is said or to avenge if it is a lie. An oath was therefore generally taken to be the absolute truth, which made “an end of every dispute,” because it invited judgment on the one who violated his word. (Neh. 10:29).
• Making a solemn promise is a serious thing. Should there be an occasion for a child to do so an authority should provide the necessary counsel.
God provided for making oaths by His name (Lev. 19:12). Even God The Father Himself made oaths on certain occasions. (Gen. 22:16-17). (Heb. 6:13-14, cf. v. 17). (Ps. 89:3, 49; 110:4; Jer. 11:5; and Luke 1:73.)
Please turn to Matthew 26
Jesus many times used the phrase “Truly I say to you” (Matt. 5:18, 26; 6:2, 5 16; etc.), and the even more emphatic “Truly, truly, I say to you” (John 1:51; 3:3, 5; 5:19, 24; etc.), to call attention to a teaching of special importance. As with God’s oaths, the words Jesus introduces with “truly” are no more truthful than anything else He said, but emphasize the unique importance of certain of His teachings. It is important to note that Jesus Himself swore an oath before Caiaphas:
Matthew 26:63-64 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God (I charge you under oath), tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." (ESV)
We seek the righteous oath in Matthew 26:63-64 and the sin quickly following:
Matthew 26:69-74 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you mean." And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath: "I do not know the man." After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed. (ESV)