1. As we continue in our study of the Sermon on the Mount, we come to Matthew 5:33-37 where Jesus covers the topic of vows and Honesty. Not nearly as controversial or emotional, but probably even more applicable to everybody in the room as you’ll see in just a minute.
2. But before we read the passage, some context. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were experts in using the law to their advantage. Experts in circumventing the law. They had interpreted the law in ways that were advantageous for them personally. In the Mishnah, the oral traditions of the Rabbis, they had entire section devoted to the subject of vows. Which vows were legally binding, which ones weren’t. Which vows were the most binding, which ones carried the least legal weight.
3. The Jews in Jesus’ day swore by all kinds of things (gold, earth, beard, temple, God, heaven), and when they really meant it they would use strong language, strong vows involving God like we swear on a stack of Bibles. We swear to God. May God strike me dead if I don’t (you know you’re not getting paid back when it starts w/that) If they didn’t intend to keep the vow, they would swear by lesser things (beard, hair, the earth) so they weren’t legally bound. It was like us crossing our fingers or declaring that it’s opposite day. You look really pretty. Oops, it’s opposite day. They’re teaching on vows promoted a culture of dishonesty, of system manipulation and semantics much like we have in our world today. Jesus addresses that here as He declares it DOUBLE opposite day.
4. Matthew 5:33-37 33"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.' 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all (if you have to swear, you’re basically saying, now we all know that normally I lie, but this time): either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
5. Noah. I’ve got to tell you, this one really hit home this week. My oldest son, Noah, was bugging me all day Thursday to play dominos with him. Th’s my writing day, so I’m home, but working. But every time I’d come out of my office for lunch or water or something, “dad, can we play dominos?” And finally, to just try to end it, I said, yes, when I’m done with work, we’ll play dominos. He was stoked. Well, I finished working, it was about 5 o’clock and Noah’s right there. Can we play dominos, now?
6. Well, it was a beautiful day and I didn’t want to sit inside and play dominos, so I talked him into going swimming – tried to do the “instead of”, but he made sure it was a “both / and”. He said, OK, I’ll go swimming, but we’re still going to play dominos, right? So I said, yes. He was starting to doubt me b/c it’s getting late and we still have to eat dinner, go to karate, he’s doing the math; so he made me shake on it. So we made a deal.
7. So we’re in the pool, maybe 30 min. later, Noah just randomly says, “Dad if you don’t play dominos with me, you owe me $20 for breaking the deal.” That got me thinking. (If he gets 20 for me not playing, how much do I get if I play?) What’s making him think I’m not going to play? I’m thinking back. How many times have I told him I would and I didn’t? Why is my son paranoid that I’m going to break my deal?
8. Well, sure enough, the day gets away from us and it ends up bedtime and we haven’t played dominos. I’m explaining what happened and that we can play tomorrow, and he says, Dad, you promised. The first thing that popped into my mind, I almost said it, was “I didn’t promise! I just said we’d do it.” (angel/devil) And I thought, I can either sit here and try to explain to my 8 year old the difference between a promise and a commitment or I can teach him that my word is my word. So I did what any good dad would do – I said, well, I think your mom really wants to play with you. Just kidding, we played dominoes. It’s great having a lawyer for a son!