“What Jesus Demands From The World” – Daily Devotional (7/15/10): Demand #38 “Do Not Take An Oath – Cherish The Truth and Speak It Plainly”

Matthew 5:33-37

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.” But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil.”

Matthew 23:16-22

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.”

“Jesus teaches that truth is precious. All of us agree with this when we are being lied about. The most relativistic professor in the university, who scoffs at the concept of truth in the classroom, will be indignant if his electricity bill is false to his disadvantage. He will call the utility company and complain that there is some mistake. He will not think it funny if the voice on the other end says, “It’s a mistake in your view, but not in our view. (pg. 288)”

“Jesus loved truth and hated deceit. He confirmed the ninth commandment, “Do not bear false witness” (Mark 10:19). He warned that “deceit” comes out of the heart and defiles a person (Mark 7:21-22). He considered religious hypocrisy a hellish form of lying (Matt. 23:15). He said that those who use their piety to cloak their evil are sons of the devil. “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 has nothing to do with 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). Lying originates with the devil, and those who turn away from speaking truth join forces with Satan. Over against this, Jesus came into the world to reveal the truth about God and man and salvation and what is right and wrong. At the end of his ministry, when he was on trial for his life, he said to Pontius Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). Like many modern cynics, Pilate responded, “What is truth?” and turned to go without an answer (pg. 291).”

“But we know the answer he would have received. Jesus would have said what he had already said, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). Jesus himself—in all that he is and all that he does and all that he says— is the criterion of what is real and true and right and beautiful. When he speaks, there is no error or falsehood. He said of himself, “The one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18). Therefore, when others did not believe what he said, he did not consider changing the message to win a better hearing. If truth was met with unbelief, the problem lay with the unbelieving heart, not the truth. “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me” (John 8:45). Jesus said that people turn away from the light not because they think it’s false, but because they love darkness (John 3:19).

Therefore, it is not surprising that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus overturned one of the subtle practices of his day to avoid truth-telling and promise-keeping. When a promise is not kept, it becomes a lie. And when a promise made with a public oath is not kept, we call it perjury. When I was growing up we joked that if you had your fingers crossed when you made a promise, you didn’t have to keep it. We also had our own youthful ways of reinforcing our distrusted word: We said, “Cross my heart and hope to die.” What we meant was: I am speaking from my heart, not just my lips, and if what I say is not true let me die. Jesus was not happy about either of these devices—the crossing of the fingers to escape a promise and the crossing of the heart to reinforce a promise… [In Matthew 5: 33-37] Jesus is demanding two things here: First, he demands that we not use verbal evasions to escape promise-keeping; second, that we be so truthful that oaths are superfluous.

The verbal evasions Jesus cites are in reference to heaven and earth and Jerusalem and the head… Jesus rejects that kind of evasion. He points out that everything you swear by has God behind it one way or the other… Therefore, your problem is your small view of God and truth. You think truth is insignificant and can be manipulated to your liking. And you think God is off in a corner with little concern for your truthfulness until his name is mentioned. In these two things you are wrong. Truth is precious beyond your ability to imagine, and God is behind every molecule in the universe and is always concerned that his creatures be truthful… All this evasiveness ignores the fact that the holiness of heaven, altar, and temple come from their connection with God. But this means little to those who are bent on finding ways to make peace with falsehood (pg. 292-295).”

Blessings,

Pastor Josh

Published in: on July 15, 2010 at 9:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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