Jesus Teaches Us to be Truthful
33 “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.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 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 take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5-7 is about righteousness. His main point is actually that the Scribes and Pharisees are not approaching righteousness from God’s perspective. They are hedging to try and get around the law. They are sacrificing the broader principles for narrow exceptions. They take oaths so that their words are binding. And some oaths are more binding than others. This is silly. Taking oaths is about telling the truth. Telling the truth is necessary to have real relationships. It is foundational. And telling the truth is about one of the Ten Commandments:
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Let’s start by examining the commandment:
- Bearing False Witness
- False witness
Saying or conveying what is not true.
The first lie: Genesis 3:
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Not only is the information false, but there is evil intent. It is the evil intent that is what we need to fight against!
- Is it ever ok to lie?
Titus 1:2 God never lies
44 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.
Rahab is the classic example. Laws can conflict.
Undercover police work
Spying for governments
Is it ever OK to be against your neighbor? When is it ok to bear false witness against your neighbor? The best definition of love that I know is to will and act in the best interest of another person.
- When is the truth not loving?
Nazis and Jews. Who are we going to love?
Bonhoeffer: There are some people to whom you do not owe the truth. If your “truth” is going to harm another person, treat them how you would like to be treated.
Just because someone has their feelings hurt does not mean that you have harmed them. If we can’t hurt each other’s feelings then we are not going to be able to communicate about much. And certainly we can’t talk about anything that is controversial.
Go to the broader principle and keep that first.
Matt 12 quoting Isaiah: 18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
The truth of your feelings is not the ultimate principle. Love is the ultimate principle.
- Against Your Neighbor
Leviticus 19:18 Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Who is my neighbor?
Jesus answers this question in Luke 10:25-37
The parable of the Good Samaritan
And He answers it in such a way as to make us responsible to love all others in the way that God has commanded us. As you read ahead in this passage, you will find that is where He is headed here as well.
The Samaritan: Compassion for the needs of others. Action to help meet the needs of others. Why? Because that is love for neighbor.
- How am I to treat my neighbor?
Matt 7:12 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Leviticus 19: 9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life[a] of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
- Why speak falsely against my neighbor?
To take advantage of them. Either by getting them to believe a lie or by damaging their reputation. Coveting, stealing and lying go together.
Talk about gossip and slander. They connect to the desire to damage another’s reputation.
III. Oaths Have a Purpose
- Never lie, oath not needed
There are appropriate uses for oaths. And they are a tool for protecting people from miscommunication.
- Oaths are meant to convey importance
Hebrews 6: 13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever
It is impossible for God to lie, and yet He gives an oath!
They are not for every day issues. But they are used to make sure that communication is serious and clear. They should be rare. They are like a verbal contract. How many contracts have you signed in your life? Why do you need a contract? “I didn’t know, I didn’t understand. Etc.