Matthew 5:33-37

33 “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.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath 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 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

When everybody like you to take your Bibles to Matthew chapter five of this morning, we returned to the sermon on the Mount. I feel like I haven’t been doing this in a while and glad to be back in the, as much as we have a pulpit, the pulpit this morning, Matthew chapter five, we’re going to be looking at verses 33 to 37.
As we returned to this series, the upside down life, Jesus picture of what it means to live as a kingdom dweller as a kingdom inhabitant in Jesus’ kingdom. And this morning, we’re looking at his perspectives on honesty, Matthew chapter five, verse 33. Here’s what we read 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. Ford is the 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. That what you say be simply yes or no.
Anything more comes from evil. Let’s pray.
Lord would come this morning to not only worship through song, but we also come father to come under the teaching of the school. Lord, we thank you for your word. Thank you. It’s timeless. It’s the only book. It’s the only truth that has ever been given. That is absolutely without an era of relevancy. It is timely in every generation, in every culture to every gender, every people group.
So Lord, we look to you to teach us today, open our hearts to this whole perspective. I pray of what it means to be fully honest people in Jesus name. Amen.
Jesus in the sermon on the Mount, as we have mentioned, a number of times in this series is continually making statements like you have heard that it was said, or, or they, those of old said, and, and what he’s referring to is the thing called the oral tradition. He isn’t only quoting the old Testament. He is often referring to this set of commentaries on the old Testament that had come down through history.
It was not written down. It was actually written down in 70 a D in what is called, or just post 78 D uh, called the Mishnah. And the word wish Mishnah actually means repetition or studied by repetition. Basically, they were taking the oral traditions that had come through. Couple of centuries and began to write them down.
The reason they wrote them down is because in 78, D Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and they began to think, you know, everything’s fallen apart in our nation, we’re all getting dispersed and we need to have a written record of these case studies, which was basically what the oral tradition was.
The oral tradition was okay. God says don’t, um, uh, travel on the Sabbath day. It should be a day of rest. So what they did was they, they put all these case studies well, does does traveling on the seven SAB does work on the Sabbath day. Me and I can travel a mile two miles and a half. I actually brought all this out there and each of the, of the, uh, 63 categories of the oral tradition.
Had a million case studies under it. And in all these case studies, they tried to say, well, this is what it means. So this is what, and they would try to come to some, uh, cohesive perspective. The problem was in building these case studies and these commentaries, they regularly took God’s principles in his law and actually, while trying to make it more understandable and more specific.
And if you will more practical by application to know exactly what to do in a situation, they actually dumbed it all down. They actually try to explain in such specificity that they lost in many ways, the heart of these broad principles of God. And so in Jesus teaching in Matthew five through seven, Jesus is saying.
This is what you’re operating on, what they’ve said in the oral tradition, but here’s what it actually means. And so he says stuff like, as we’ve looked, he starts talking about the commandment do not murder. And he says, you know, the, the, the oral tradition says, do not murder. And if you commit murder, you’re, you’re guilty of you.
You’ll be subject to judgment. But I tell you what that commandment actually meant was a broad principle. That if you do harm to your neighbor, if you’re angry at your neighbor, if you, if you call them a full ride, if he, if you speak in a way that is somehow destructive, removing, if you will, part of their, their, their life you’ve committed murder, he says, you heard, it said don’t commit adultery.
And he says, but I want you to understand that, that this actually is talking about. Heart adultery as well. It’s speaking about lusting after a woman, he talks about divorce and he says, you heard it was saying, you know, basically you can get a divorce for any reason, which is what the oral tradition tended to say.
And they had all these case studies and it even meant that if your wife over cooked a meal, you could give her a department needs. These are really there. And he said the only allowance for divorce, and even that’s by the hardness of your heart, the only allowance for divorce is if your, your spouse has been sexually unfaithful.
So what he’s doing is saying, when we look at the Pharisees and the scribes, and we think, oh man, these guys were so preoccupied with the law, LA LA LA LA LA. It’s all about doing, doing, doing. And we think they’re making so much of the law. Actually, they were doing the opposite. They didn’t, the law to them was not too big.
It was not too high. It was too low. They acted as if a person in their own strength can do these things. And Jesus comes along and says, this is how the law of God is designed. The principles of God’s standard of righteousness and holiness are so high. Hi, that they speak to the very heart motivations of people’s lives that no one can fulfill the law of God apart from the spirit of God working in their lives.
And so for the, the, the religionists, the scribes, the Pharisees for the most part, religion became an external thing. As long as they did the externals and seemed to do the right things. And Jesus said, no, but your heart’s bad. Your motivation is self-centered. You’re you’re you’re. You’re not compassionate.
You’re not kind, which is the very foundation of how you treat one another. And so he says this, I’m going to tell you what, what it really means to live as a member of my kingdom in Matthew five through seven. And so now he comes to this principle where he now, the topic that he’s taking is the topic of honesty.
And the issue here is going to do the same thing. It’s going to raise the bar above what they were expecting and what they had in these oral traditions that the rabbis continually week after week expounded. And he’s going to talk about what was standard of, of honesty and what now is the true standard of honesty in Jesus’ kingdom.
What we’re going to see in this message is five principles. And then we’re going to end with three questions. And the last question, which is not in your sermon summary is the most important part of the whole sermon. All right. So, so if I completely lose you, I’m going to try to reel you back in at least at the end.
All right. Five principles regarding honesty and truth, telling that Jesus gives us number one, don’t look for loopholes to get out of being honest. He says this in chapter five, verse 33. Again, you’ve heard that it was said to those of old, you shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord. What you have sworn the standard of honesty was this do not fail to keep what you have sworn with God as your witness.
That’s actually what he’s saying. They have fixed God’s name as a witness in certain situations, it could be in court, but it also was regularly in private. And they, it was basically a way of saying this. Look, you can be sure I’m telling you the truth. Because God is my witness. I’m calling God as my witness to this statement and he affirms that it’s true.
And so the, the, the oral tradition that was passed down was, man, if you call God as your witness, you better not screw it up. If you take God and bring him in as your witness, you better be telling the truth. And so they, they, they, they basically did what we do as God is my witness. This is true. I swear to God, may God strike me dead if this isn’t true.
I swear on a stack of Bibles that I didn’t go there. Years ago, 2004 Tio Terrell Owens joined the Eagle. We were all happy, greatest receiver in football, Donovan McNabb, a quarterback was happy and they were going to form this, this amazing partnership, which they did for a year. And they formed this, this, this, this tandem of two phenoms working together.
And it all began to fall apart when Tio got frustrated with the management and was frustrated that Donovan was not joining with him and wanted him to join in his voice. And basically at one time Tio quoted Donovan or at least what he perceived was Donovan’s perspective, which he said, basically, Donovan’s my witness.
He feels the same way. And if you remember the famous statement, some of you are saying it right now, Donovan said, don’t. He said, get my name out of your mouth. What he was saying was, don’t call me as your witness. I’m not affirming the things you’re saying. I want my name out of your mouth. What they’re saying here in this statement that Jesus quoting, which is that the normative view of truth-telling was, if you’re going to put God’s name in your mouth, if you’re going to say, God’s my witness that this cow I’m selling to you gives 12 gallons of milk a week.
Then you better really have a cow that gives 12 gallons of milk a week, because you’ve now asked God to sign as a guaranteer of your statement. That was the standard of righteousness for honesty. And Jesus said, This is an abysmal standard of honesty, basically as the standard of honesty, of course it’s woefully and, and you, Mick, what resulted was anything you did not swear with God as your witness, and it’s not primarily talking about the court.
This is what they did in private conversations. Now, of course, we do this culturally as well. Um, you know, we really want people to know. I mean, I swear to God, this is true. This is the way it is. I mean, I, I mean, I put my hand on a stack of Bible, but what it basically does is give a loophole for anything that you haven’t done that with.
So the first thing he’s saying is that can’t be a loophole for dishonesty. The second thing he’s saying here is don’t treat some things or situations as more worthy of honesty than others. Notice verse 34 to 36. Here’s what he says. 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.
Where is his footstool or by Jerusalem for it is a city of the Greek. And do not take an oath by your head for you cannot make one hair white or black. Now the first time we read those supers, we go, what in the world is Jesus talking about? Here’s what Jesus is talking about, what they did. And a few, if you could, if you read the Mishnah, which is actually the compilation of the oral tradition that was there for centuries, you will find that they have a whole section on truth-telling under the subject of oats.
And basically these are a number of the things that they said. I swear by heaven. I don’t want to quite go to God, but heaven. You know, the place of God, I’ll swear by that. And Jesus, that’s ridiculous. He says swearing by heaven is not less than swearing by God, because heaven is God’s throne. And then they swore a little lower with swear by earth, you know, Swearing by earth.
He says is not lower than heaven because it is God’s footstool. He says swearing by Jerusalem. Well, it’s God’s city swearing by your head, which basically was a statement like this MEI MEI MEI. I lose my head. May my head beat because off, if I’m not telling the truth again, we do this kind of stuff. I don’t know if they still say this, but I remember as kids, we used to say it, cross my heart and hope to die.
If this isn’t the truth, it’s the same thing to say, oh man. I mean, by my very life, I swear, this is true. And Jesus is saying to this look, you can try to get in. And so, and the idea was by swearing, by my life, it’s less holy and sacred than swearing. Jerusalem and sworn by Jerusalem, less sacred than swearing by heaven and God, and Jesus is saying guys, all of these things, you know, you swear by your own head where you can’t control your head, you can’t make your hair turn white or black.
I wish you could, frankly, but, but which, if you do it artificially, some of us had learned, we decided that way too late. So anyway, but he’s saying you can’t control these things. You aren’t over heaven. Your God is over heaven. God is over Jerusalem. God’s over earth. God’s over your life. He says, when you swear, when you say yes or no about stuff, thing, God is always a witness.
He’s always.
Bearing witness, whether this is true or this is untrue, basically what he’s saying is your, your concept of saying, well, this is a big thing. No, my wife, I, I have not been unfaithful to you. That’s a big one. I swear to God. No, no, I, you know, this, this, uh, this, this, uh, motorcycle I’m selling you for 600 bucks.
It really, there’s nothing wrong with it. Cross my heart. Hope to die. I’ll swear on me. Yeah. It’s not quite as big. Well, what he’s saying is there’s not to be categories of truth telling that summer. Okay. And some are less significant.
This speaks to us, right? Because we might say, well, I would never, I would never lie under oath. You got to be kidding me. I’m in there. And put my hand in the Bible and swear that you know that I’m going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I would never lie there. Or if I’ve signed a contract, I would never break my contractual commitment.
Well, Jesus is saying you shouldn’t have, you have to sign a doc for your word to be valid. Now I’m not saying there isn’t a place for contracts, but what Jesus is saying is that your word should be enough. Or I would never, I would never lie to my partner. I might lie to my customer a little bit, but no, I mean, we have to have a trust relationship as partners in business.
And Jesus is saying the playing field is level. There’s not to be different levels of honesty. I’d never deceived my partner, but yeah, sometimes you just, you know, you gotta, what is, well, I, I, I, if I’m a, I’m a sports leader, I never lie to my players, but to the media, c’mon, Jesus is saying truth is truth.
And so here’s where he comes down in verse 37. He says, this is what I’m actually saying. Always always tell the truth. And as we come to this, he says your yes. When somebody asks you, will you do something your yeses? Yes. If somebody asked you if you did it and you say, yes, it’s a, yes. It’s real. Your no is a no.
He said people of my kingdom are so honest. There’s no need for old S there’s no need for ultimately written signed contrast contracts. There’s no need for measuring how close to me is this person? My people are truth tellers.
And now this starts to get a little dicier.
Yeah. There’s a statement that. Scottish began. It actually was built into their court system that a verbal agreement was acceptable binding legally, historically, for them it was the statement. My word is my bond. The word bond, their little means is my binding agreement. The word bond is from the same root to bind.
My word is like, I signed a binding agreement now again, is there a place for contracts you sin and we should never have anything written down. Yes. Part of it is just practical. Some of you are like me. We are verbal. Excuse me. We are visual learners. I don’t remember a lot. What I’m told. I do a hotline.
I’m terrible. I wish I could be on the treadmill and do what Tim hunt does. The guy reads millions of books, just listening to them. I have to see the words to remember. My wife learned this years ago and she years ago by many negative experiences like this, where it would go like this mark. I just get home from work.
Mark, did you, did you get the groceries? What groceries? You told me last night that when you came home from work, you would get the fruit for the fruit salad that I’m making for people coming over tonight.
Are you sure it was me? I totally don’t remember. Now. Verbally VIT contractual agreements are helpful just because they remind us where we legitimately don’t remember. There’s value in that. But what Jesus is saying here is this is your word trustworthy. Is your word sacred? Is it your bond? Is it that yes.
When I say yes, I don’t mean yes, unless it’s not convenient or unless another offer comes along or, or he says you’re yes. Is yes. Are you known as a truth teller at all times, if you think right now of the most honest person in your world can be a family member, it can be a coworker. It can be a friend could be in.
You will find a person that you realize they tell the truth all the time. Even when it hurts, they are a truth teller. Jesus is saying move, and he’s trying to move his followers away from a thin veneer of technical honesty, then masked deception. Now, again, here’s where we get dicey. One of the things that we often talk to our kids about was the fact that telling the truth
evolves not only what I say, but the message that the people here
this is harder to do with cell phones, but you can still call landline and people won’t know really how many times you’ve called. How many of us have. Called somebody and realized we weren’t very diligent in getting back to them. We made one quick cursory call and, and they say they see us. And we find ourselves saying, oh man, I’ve been, I’ve been trying to get ahold of you.
And I’ve been calling and I’ve called a number of times. Now one is a number. Right. But what they hear, they heard, oh my goodness. I can’t believe I’ve been missing all these calls from poor mark has been caught. It’s not only what I say. It’s what I know. They hear me say, Jesus is saying. Don’t play around.
He says, you guys are playing around you. You swear to God with this you’ll square to Jerusalem at this just, you know, you get all these levels and all these maneuvering, what you’re doing is just, you’re not saying I am going to be honest.
It isn’t only what you say. It’s also the message that people hear. I love this one, the old one you want to, you want to get people, you want to get your opinion across, you know, lots of people agree with me. Lots of people are saying stuff to me. You just want to say who, how many, almost every time that has ever happened in my life, what I have found is there’s one.
And that one happens to be his daughter. Yeah. And, and, and we, we, we’ve gotta be careful. With truth. And Jesus is saying, be careful because we’re slippery on this stuff. There’s a couple of principles that are
sorry. This is what people do have pulpits. The there’s a couple of principles relating to honesty that are important also to see in the sermon on the Mount that speak to this, because one of the dangers of reading his lofty statements on honesty is that it can be seen in isolation. For instance, a fourth principle regarding honesty is we must accompany honesty with kindness and gentleness in Matthew chapter five, he talks about you are to love your enemies, but most importantly, he says this in Matthew chapter seven, treat others as you would want to be.
Do that in the realm of honesty, all these things are interconnected. We expect for people to be honest with us, right? I mean, w w when we’re not, w w w we feel disrespected, we feel demeaned, but we also want to be spoken to with kindness, Ephesians four verse 15 says to be speaking the truth in the context, love,
it’s easy to look at this, and maybe you’re this kind of an individual, and you think I, man, I got issues, but I don’t, I am a truth teller. As a matter of fact, I am a person that sees it as it is. Maybe you say I have the gift of prophecy, just be careful because I’ve found the first time that I meet with somebody and they come in and I’m having a conversation with them.
And the first thing they start saying, I’m a truth teller. I tell it the way it is or I’m my gift is prophecy. I know where this is gone. There’s going to be of their perception. Jesus is saying, yes, we need to be truth tellers, but we need to have it impact people the way we would want their truth to impact us,
which leads to number five, embrace truth, telling to yourself, this is really, really important. There’s two aspects of this in Matthew five through seven. One is found in chapter seven, where he talks about judging others. He says, you, you guys see the sawdust specked in your neighbor’s eye, but you’re blind to the log in your own eye.
Now truth telling could be to go up to a person and say, I see a speck there. And Jesus is before you run over and start pointing out specs as a truth-teller. Now start with a spirit of humility this first saying, man, I got to deal with the law before I deal with their spec. That part of being truth tellers is being truth tellers to ourselves.
That also means not only that our truth telling is tempered by humility, but we are dealing with our own insides in matcha, in Matthew seven. Again, the latter part of the sermon on the Mount. He talks about these teachers and he says they come in sheep’s clothing, but inside they’re ravenous. Wolf’s that the idea is they are not seeing themselves.
They think there’s something different than they are. And he says, beware of them. And he would also say to the wolves, be aware of yourself. There must be speaking truth to ourselves. Chronic liars are always deceivers of themselves. First. They began to look at life. They have so habitually consistently sometimes months, sometimes, often years, sometimes decades of just developing a view of life that they, they naturally are untrustworthy.
But I believe with all my being, it starts because they’re not really speaking truth and didn’t themselves. How do we combat this? There’s two really important things. You must allow truth tellers in your own life. We become manic liars by not hearing truth about ourselves, about our own logs, about what’s really ruling our own hearts.
Now, some people avoid doing this Proverbs talks about this, the king who, uh, the person in leadership who surrounds themselves with flatter riffs. They don’t want to hear anything. We can do that. I just, I keep anybody that’s got anything that’s gets in closer as questioning, keep them away, but there’s another way we do it.
We’ve become schmoozers. Some people are very good at at what they do, and we can all do this to a degree, but you can become very good at, at keeping the conversation always about other people. You can do it by being a complimenter. You can do it by being seemingly very. But what you’re doing is keeping people away.
You can’t be a truth teller. If you are not first being a truth receiver, we must let people be truth-tellers into our lives because our voice to ourselves is often not trustworthy. So again, I’m trying to temper this statement. Yes. We need to always be telling the truth. I believe that however truth telling starts with being truth receivers.
The other aspect of this is we must immerse ourselves in God’s truth. I recommend for anybody journaling for this. What happens when you journal and you, you, you, you put your prayers there. You put your responses to scripture there. When you write it down, you really understand what’s going on inside of you.
You will find out what’s your thinking. What’s your process. You will then be able to speak truth into yourself to take you just read the Bible. That’s wonderful and beautiful. I’m not saying don’t do that, but take it the next step where you’re allowing a scripture to speak in your writing. You’re listening.
Hear yourself here. What am I learning here? Wow. I wasn’t even thinking this. The way I’m looking at this is so contrary to what I’m reading. Be a truth receiver. Okay. What about three quick? What about questions? Number one. What about, should Christian speak under oath? There are many, not many. There are some Christian groups.
That take this passage in Matthew 5 30, 3 to 37 to say, we should never take an oath. And they, as conscientious objectors were, will not put their hand on a Bible and swear because he says, don’t swear by anything I don’t in any way. Think that’s what Jesus is saying. I think he’s saying, he’s not saying you can’t swear in that way, any more than he’s saying there’s not value in signing a contract, but he’s saying you shouldn’t have, you have to need to, your word should be your bond.
Secondly, aren’t there times it has conjured a lot. Hmm. Now I’m going to get all the, yeah, but probably through emails or texts or conversations, but no, there are not times when it is kind of to lie, but of course it’s going to be a, but, but there are times when it is kinder to not say all that. Now it was not Jack Nicholson in a few good men who first came up with this statement.
You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. You know who first we know came up with that statement. The very person that spoke Matthew five through seven, John 16, 12, Jesus said this to his Boyce, the disciples. I still have many things to say to you, but you can’t bear them now. Jesus lying saying, oh, I got more to say, and I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna not tell you because I don’t want you to know or because I, you know, I don’t want you to know that what he’s saying is there are times when you don’t have to dump the whole darn load.
That kindness is not saying everything, you know, that speaks to those of us that love to be truth-tellers into other’s lives. Sometimes it’s kinder to just bear with. But I don’t believe Jesus is giving us an out here saying, well it’s yeah. It’s kindness too. To lie. I don’t think he’s allowing that here.
Here’s my last question. And to me, it’s the most important part of this study. Here’s my question. Why do we lie? Why do we lie? And if, if there’s anybody in here that say, I never lie,
you just did. Okay. Why do we lie? We lie to protect ourselves. Say why it’s not always true. I do it for other people. It bear with me. We lie when we’re scared. We fear. Well, again, what’s fear. Fear is the sense of feeling threatened a feeling in danger. Now, maybe that is for someone else. Usually it’s for ourselves we’re associated with, but it could be.
The last time you lied I’ll guarantee it was one of these types of things you feared looking bad, you fear being embarrassed or you feared conflict or pain, or your feared loss. You didn’t fully disclose everything with the house when you put on them. I, and I, you know, I remember the first house we ever bought was such a, I didn’t know what I was doing, but we went in with a realtor and, uh, there was, I didn’t even see it.
It was house we wanted, we’re all excited. And there’s a kitchen table and the beautiful teak wood floor under the dining room in the dining room. And I didn’t notice this, but the, the realtor off to the side pulled a chair out from the table, the dining room table. And he lifted that carpet up and I happened to be there and I watched and.
Under the, under the carpet, there were no tiles, they were all missing. It was all jagged. They’d been broken. I don’t know what happened. Maybe there’s water damage. So they hidden under the carpet. And I just saw him very kindly, gently go up to when he says, you know, you probably ought to get that, that floor fixed in the, in the dining room.
It was my first experience with, wow. Now they weren’t maybe on the final inspection, I would have been smart enough to look into the carpet, although probably not, but there’s all kinds of reasons we can deceive and we can lie. But in VR, carry a blade, there’s something or afraid of there’s danger.
There’s threat.
So what do we do with that? The beauty of walking with Jesus. Is that the one that is asking us to always be truth tellers and to be famous for speaking, always the truth with a spirit of humility and love of is that Jesus empowers truth telling when we let him love us, the more you believe you are God’s beloved son or daughter that he is for you, that he is crazy about you, that he not only loves you, but likes you, that he delights in you, the freer from the fears that cause you to lie, you will be the more, you know him.
Trust him. Enjoy him, rely on him. The more you’ll delight in being a truth teller free from lying and change to a person who can be trusted. I love this passage and I’m pulling it all together here in Psalm 34. It’s one of my favorite passage of the scripture. It’s the one I quote every night as I go to sleep.
Psalm 34, 22 verses is talking about overcoming fear by the fear of God in verse 11, he says, come now children, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. I’ll teach you about being awed by God. And then he says this, what is the person in verse 12? What does the person look like? Who’s the God fear. And then he answers it in verse 13.
He keeps his tongues from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. What is he saying? When we’re awed by God, when he’s the biggest thing in our lives, when he’s the center of our being, I don’t mean that he’s just big and Lord majestic and powerful. He’s all those things, but that he’s our God that he’s our father, that he’s our friend that we’re his kids that he’s crazy about.
He says, when you are awed by him, God fearers
are truth tellers. Why? Because they’re not scared. They’re not on the line. They’re not having to get people’s approval all the time. They’re not having to worry about, about risk and, and. Shared in that series, these characteristics of God that are called the loss that he’s stronger than anything you might face he’s sweeter than anything you might lose.
He’s standing with you anywhere. You might go. He surrounds you against any enemy that comes against you. He safer than anything you might trust in. He sovereign over anything you might encounter. When you really imbibe. This is the God that’s doing life with me.
You begin to not be so scared. And you begin to find the freedom to be truth tellers,
because you have a God, it frees you. Lord, we come to you this morning.
Every one of us. For honest with ourselves knows we shade the truth, which is just another way of lying. We exaggerate, we flatter
Lord. The more we know you, the more we let you love us
freer. We find ourselves from fear and it has such beautiful practical impact in our lives. We’ve become truth tellers because we live out the reality of ultimate truth that God has for us.
Lord, we love you for it all in Jesus name. Amen. Go in peace to love and serve and enjoy the Lord.