Monday, May 13, 2013

I Swear

Again, you've heard that the ancients were told,
‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’
But I say to you:
Make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
…or by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet,
…or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
…Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
Let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’;
…anything beyond these is of evil.

Matthew 5.33-37

This one is funny to me, partly because of what I was taught about it as a youngster.  Because of this passage, I was taught that if I had to testify in court and they asked me to swear on the bible that I could say, “No, I don’t swear or make oaths.”  If you do that, the court will allow you to say “I affirm.”  Now obviously the meaning is exactly the same, but for some reason I was taught it made a difference.  But I still think if I’m ever a witness in court I’ll do this just for the fun of it.

If you've been following along in our study of the SOM, you know that this is the fourth of six sections in which Jesus is teaching like a rabbi, and he is not merely making stricter rules for us to follow! 

In this case our Lord is teaching us to be known as truth-tellers.  When I say something and the person asks me if I “promise,” I say, “No.”  My word is good – it doesn't need to be augmented with promises and oaths.  We all need to be extra careful to be so focused on the truth that there will never be a doubt when we say something.  That is letting your “yes be yes.”  If you say it, it’s true.  In our culture that means several things... 


It means that we refuse to lie or even be deceitful!  Don’t be one of those kinds of people who say, “Well, technically I didn't lie; I just withheld information,” or whatever work-around you have.  Make a ridiculously strong commitment to yourself and to God that you will go way out of your way never to be deceitful.  No matter what – you will not ever deceive.  If you can make that vow and learn how to be that kind of a person, it has life changing consequences … (I’ll put in a future post).


It means: don’t spread unverified stories.  I regularly get emails that are religious and/or political in nature.  Often these are sent by people whose intentions are good, but they fail to verify their facts.  And without realizing it, they compromise their credibility.  These things are nonsense so often, that the person ought to just send me an email that says, “Hello, I’m a gullible moron.”  Understand: your intentions are irrelevant … what matters is truth. 

How can you expect to tell the Good News to people who have grown accustomed to you being the kind of person who forwards emails that are shallow, false, political, or financial?  Only other fools will fall for that nonsense.  Check your facts!!  If it’s about the bible, try opening one and studying it.  If it’s about something online, check snopes.  
Whatever you do … get your facts right.  Disciples of Jesus cannot afford to be inaccurate!  In this, we must be above reproach. 


Know the difference between fact, faith and opinion.  Some things you say or write are just opinions, like thinking a politician is awful or a sports team is good or bad.  Some things are demonstrable facts, like the time the sun will rise.  And then there are things we accept by faith, like Jesus’ resurrection or God’s creation of the earth.  If you believe it, you may think it’s a fact.  Those who don’t believe it … they think it’s your opinion.  In matters of scripture or anything about God – be very careful about sharing your opinion, and be sure you know that most of what you say is merely your opinion!! 

Have heard people “share” stuff in a “bible study”?  Most of it is so foolish that if we were to correct them, they’d be embarrassed so no one says anything.  Much of the room knows you’re a fool – and won’t tell you.  Only those who agree with you will speak up.  Next time you’re in a group setting and thinking about “sharing” … consider this:

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.Proverbs 18:2
Almost everyone I know “delights in airing his opinions,” but don’t realize how foolish they sound to those in the room who know better.  If you feel irresistibly compelled to bathe others in your opinions – have the decency to at least say it’s just your opinion!  If it’s a matter of faith – then say you ‘believe’ it.  But don’t ever let your audience confuse the three when they come from you.  Fact, opinion or matters of faith: be clear. 
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is prudent.Proverbs 17:28
Oh, and remember what God said about Job’s “friends,” and their “wisdom.”  (Job 42.7-9)

The best thing for us to remember is that God is everywhere, and He hears everything we say, write, post or forward.  Make sure when you say something that you represent Him in a way that will make Him smile, and build for yourself a reputation that if something comes from you … it’s true.  Only then will people trust you so much that they’d risk their eternity on the words you say. 

truth is everything – let your yes be yes, and your no be no … if it comes from you, the world should know that it’s good stuff. 

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