Summary: How we talk and interface our will with the will of others says something about our Father in heaven. Our words, promises, and intents reflect on people’s view of God. God desires an accurate reflection of Himself in and through us.
Word Breakers & Will Benders
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.' 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.
Intro: In this chapter we’ve been talking about matters of the heart. As Jesus taught, He would state the common accepted religious guideline of the day, but then He would get to the heart of the matter and give the true picture. A few weeks ago we looked at what He had to say about murder, showing that unresolved anger and having contempt for others were really at the heart of the issue. Jesus spoke about adultery or marital unfaithfulness and divorce and showed the heart of the matter to be selfishness and failing to value every other human created in God’s image.
-In today’s passage Jesus again takes a commonly accepted belief about promises and shows that the way His people think about the truth and honesty of their words needs to change. In biblical times people swore by a variety of things other than God to show that their word was true. That way, if they were to break their promise based on one of these other things, then at least they would not be dishonoring God’s name, and of course their word would be less binding. Eventually, rabbis were called on to decide which oaths were binding, and some sort of complicated system developed. If a person swore toward Jerusalem, he was bound to his word, but not if he swore by Jerusalem. A person was bound to his word if he swore by gold on the altar, but not if he swore by the altar itself. Kind of crazy, huh? Sounds like kids making promises with their fingers crossed.
-Jesus got to the heart of the matter and called for integrity and truthfulness. But just as important as being truthful was the issue of manipulation. Why did people swear in the first place? To bypass someone’s understanding of the situation, getting them to do what you want, bending their will to yours. Everything that a person can swear by in heaven and earth belongs to God, and God calls for simple honesty. Swearing by other things was often driven by someone’s evil intent to get their way. It doesn’t only happen in politics. That leads us to the heart of what I want to share today.
Prop: How we talk and interface our will with the will of others says something about our Father in heaven.
Interrogative: How do our words, promises, and intents reflect on people’s view of God?
TS: Let’s look at a few thoughts Jesus gave us about keeping our word and speaking simple truth.
I. Empty Promises Diminish Faith
-It’s not likely that many of you have ever sworn by heaven, or by the earth. And I’d be really surprised if anyone here has ever sworn by Jerusalem or by your own head. So is that it? Do we get to take a pass and declare that Jesus’ words here are irrelevant to us today? Not so fast.