Last week we started to look at the subject of oaths. We saw that the Pharisee’s had made many rules (which was not uncommon) about which rules were binding and which were not. Jesus cuts through all their nonsense and simplifies the whole thing by basically saying “You don’t need to make oaths, just let your yes be yes and your no, no.
Remember we have been looking at the ‘sermon on the mount’ as Jesus’ manifesto for His people. When you look at it closely though you see that his standards, humanly speaking, are impossible to attain. Still to come at the end of this chapter is the alarming command of Jesus to be as perfect as God! (Matthew 5:48)
Today’s statement may seem easy enough on the surface but you have to take into account the human proclivity to lie. There’s no nice way to put this but people are basically liars, we lie all the time. Sometimes it’s an outright full blown porker and other times it’s a subtle deflection of the truth but it happens every day in one way or another. We see it from every strata of society and even people we should be respecting such as politicians, we know full well they are lying or at the very least ‘manipulating the truth’. It can be so common that we don’t even know we are doing it. When we don’t tell the plain truth we are following the devil’s ways. The last part of today’s verse is saying that anything not of the truth is from the evil one because he is a liar in his very nature. This is what Jesus had to say about him when He was addressing the Scribes and Pharisees;
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
I said we do it in subtle ways, sometimes without even realising it. We are doing it when we are economical with the truth, not giving the full picture. We are doing it when we tell ‘white lies’ and we use it as an excuse that we are just protecting people. We do it when we exaggerate and say things that are slightly better than they are to make us look good. Another way we try to look good is to ‘name drop’ and pretend we are more influential that we are. We learn to be very good at lying to our children and manipulating them through our lies. And as a final example and a particular bugbear of mine, we can lie or at least be deceitful through ‘super spirituality’. For example, I think it is very presumptuous to say “God told me” or the “Lord told me such and such.” We can be well meaning and really feel convinced that he has spoken, but be very careful about invoking His name regularly. We make Him out to be a liar when we proclaim He has said something when He hasn’t, which is very dangerous territory. We can sometimes use His name for emphasis, to convince people or because we want to sound convincing (even if on a subconscious level). And one I have even been guilty of myself is saying that I will pray for someone and then forgetting all about it. I sound good for saying it but if I don’t do it I am a liar!
Lying is selfish, it is deceptive and it comes from a desire to make ourselves look good and not God. In fact God really hates it. It appears twice in this list of things God hates in Proverbs;
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies,and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Oaths were actually devised in the first place to protect from lies. An oath said that if I am lying to you, I will forfeit something (in serious cases the life of the one making the oath).
As I said last week, Jesus wasn’t saying to not make oaths at all. There are some solemn occasions where it is important to make an oath before God, such as the marriage ceremony or in a law court. What Jesus is addressing is the everyday speech where oaths appear in nearly every sentence and they are not worth the breath they are expelling!
Dear reader, let’s be a people who bring God glory because we are known for our integrity and for always telling the truth. Let’s be people that can be trusted. When we say “Yes” we mean it and when we say “No” we mean it too. There should never be any doubt in people’s minds about whether we will do a thing or not. We show whose children we are when we walk in the truth.