Summary: This sermon is about honesty and oaths. (from May 5, 2013).
SO HELP ME GOD
Text: Matthew 5:33 – 37
I once heard a comedian tell a joke that had a rhetorical question. If you were a lawyer, his joke may or may not have been funny depending on whether or not the given lawyer or lawyers had a sense of humor. His joke went like this: “How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?” The answer comes as no shock: “every time he moves his lips”. That joke is not only funny but also has an element of truth to it. One does not have to be a lawyer to be dishonest. Just look at the hypothetical example of the kid who denies getting into the cookie jar when his mother can see the evidence of the melted chocolate chip on her son’s face. Why does the boy deny the truth? Obviously, he does not want to get punished. Incidentally, there is a lot of suspicion about whether or not we are being told the truth in current news media reports such as the Benghazi or the IRS. Why is all these kinds of things so important? Consider how Jesus follows marital fidelity with the topic of fidelity of character and speech. Oaths were supposed to help people be honest but it was possible for technicalities to get in the way.
What do we think about when we hear the word oath? Do we think about a courtroom setting where someone is sworn in with their left on the bible and their right had held up “swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help me God?” That is probably the first thing we think about. After all an oath was designed to help people to be honest. “In taking an oath, we offer the truth of something known as security to confirm the truth of something doubtful or unknown; we appeal to a greater knowledge, to a higher court.” (Martin H. Manser. ed. The New Matthew Henry Commentary. Grand Rapids; Zondervan Publishing House, 2010, p. 1414). With an oath, where one’s testimony is going to be given, it is always understood that there are consequences for being dishonest.
Don’t we also think of oaths as vows that someone takes to up hold an office? Consider the Hippocratic oath for example:
Hippocratic Oath – Modern Version
Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University,and used in many medical schools today.
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.
Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
The point that I am trying to make is that society expects integrity from a doctor. Currently, there is a doctor who has been found guilty of murder---Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
What are technicalities? The Encarta Dictionary describes technicalities as “a piece of information that is understood by or relevant only to a specialist, e.g. a detail or a term”. A good example of a relevant detail is what we call a disclaimer clause. How many Warranties have you ever seen with disclaimer clauses? Still, there is what we know as the loophole which has the potential for a double standard. Let’s not forget the fine print that you would need a magnifying glass to read. These things are all binding in a way of making a contract.