“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one Matthew 5:33-37
As I was reading this passage this morning, I was struck by the dramatic emphasis Jesus used as he delivered the “Sermon on the Mount”. This teaching, captured in several chapters of Matthew is a high point of Jesus explaining the law, and how it was meant to be carried out- the Spirit of it.
We routinely ask people to swear an oath, such as in court, to ensure that they are going to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God”. People would at times ask others to “swear on your mother’s grave” or “swear on your children” to somehow extract the real truth that otherwise might be covered up if not accompanied by the oath -that is, that if it were not the truth, terrible things would befall the liar and those he swore upon.
Jesus said, “All you need is a simple “Yes” or “No”. “He went on to say that anything beyond that is from the evil one. Jesus knew that if one needed to attach some kind of oath to their statement, that would not change the underlying motives or attitude if that person were inclined to be lying. It would simply make the lie look different, be more subtle and deceptive- the stuff of Satan.
Jesus is always seeking after a person’s heart, which is not always played out in how we behave. That is the essence of the stark contrast he made between how people tried to convolute the law to fit their own desires, or to judge another person.
In convoluting the law, people had found ways of doing something worse than lying to others- they lied to themselves and convinced themselves of their “goodness” by adhering to the law.
Prayer: Father, thank you for your truth, and help us to seek it simply and humbly, Amen.