I Swear to God!
Matthew 5:37 (NIV): 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΞΞΑΙΟΝ 5:37 εστω δε ο λογος υμων ναι ναι ου ου το δε περισσον τουτων εκ του πονηρου εστιν
Per Matthew 5:37 it be the word of you surely not / not the exceeding of these from of the of impeding it is. (Yep, reading and translating from Greek to English is FUN…sarcasm intended!)
How many of you when sharing a story or even perhaps a tall tell like the character Huckleberry Finn, use the words “I Swear to God” when people do not believe your story? It is something that we do without thinking about it. If you are ever asked to testify in a court of law, they will ask you to place your right hand on the Bible and swear that everything you are about to say is true. If what you say is not the truth, you are in danger of contempt and perjury. It is built into our DNA. On top of that, we only are willing to accept a truth that we are willing to accept. It is a truth that meets our criteria and a truth that meets our personal convictions.
Today’s verse of Scripture comes from the Sermon on the Mount. We will be staying here for a little while as this is the very first extensive teaching that Jesus ever gave. It is the greatest sermon ever spoken or recorded. Today’s verse is a complicated one, yet it is one that we need to understand.
Let your yes be yes and your no be no. There are some deep spiritual implications to this statement. First, Jesus is teaching us about how the Law that was given to Moses should have been lived out compared to how people celebrated them. Jesus, by his example and teaching, exhibited and celebrated the true underlying motivations of the Law given to Moses and he explains in verse 17 that his way is the defining way of fulfilling them correctly. Where our verse if found today is in a transition that is made in verse 31:
“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:”
This reminds me of a great book written by C.S. Lewis called “The Great Divorce” in which Lewis goes into the eternal destiny of mankind. Jesus explains this further later in Matthew 19:8 in which he says:
Matthew 19:8 (NLT): 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.
So, when we look at Matthew 5 and 19, we clearly see Jesus stating two egregious problems with mankind. We are hardheaded and hard hearted.
Now, many people use these areas of Scripture to talk about divorce, but this is not simply the case. A divorce is the result, it is what precedes this decision that matters.
A marriage is a contract, a covenant between two people. Jesus uses the idea of a man divorcing a woman. Jesus states that for a covenant to be broken between a man and a woman is if either one of them have an affair outside of their covenant. Therefore, Jesus defines what adultery is. Adultery is the breaking of a promise between two people. Jesus also said this:
Matthew 12:38–39 (NIV): 38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Matthew 16:3–4 (NIV): 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
Luke 9:41 (NIV): 41 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”
Now, you really need to pay attention to the way that the Gospel of Luke is written, especially to in this story. Many will say that Jesus was upset with his disciples, but you must look closer. As both Matthew and Mark record the same story, Luke ALWAYS refers to Jesus’ closest disciples as “the twelve”. While Jesus got frustrated at times, like the famous “get behind me Satan” comment he made to Peter, he was not upset that the disciples could not cast out this demon. The issue was with “other followers”.
These other people who “followed” him were Pharisee’s. These other followers were Saducee’s. These other followers were Scribes. These other followers liked seeing the miracles. These other followers were actively scheming behind Jesus’ back. These other followers were there to observe to find fault. These other followers were nationalistic zealots looking for a King and military leader to begin a coup. These followers celebrated the “good ole days” and the need to get them back. And it is these followers that kept a little boy from being healed by the 12 and so Jesus had to do it against their collective will and beliefs.
Now back to our verse today. Let your yes be yes and you no be no. The context of this is being faithful. When you are married, you both swear to each other and swear to God to be faithful, no matter what the circumstances dictate. So, if you agree to it, let your yes always remain yes. If you cannot follow the guidelines, then it is best that you do not make an oath at all. Don’t make a promise that you are not willing to put the work in to keep. There is no “yes but”. It is either a “yes” or a “no”.
It seems as if mankind is always looking to separate itself from something. We divorce things all the time. We divorce people all the time. We divorce even the proper ways of Jesus and still call ourselves “Christian” in our behavior. Here is a quick test and all you must do is answer yes or no. There are no, yes but’s or no but’s!
If you have accepted the terms of the agreement made by Jesus of Nazareth, do you or have you begun to?
- Love God more?
- Love people more?
- Love yourself more?
- Exhibit grace?
- Become more patient?
- Become merciful?
- Are you faithful to a church?
- Are you faithful in your attendance?
- Do you tithe your tenth to God?
- Do you give an offering? (This is different than a tithe)
- Do you gather with other Jesus followers on a regular basis?
- Do you spend time ministering to non-Christ followers?
- Do you pray without stopping?
- Do you do all these things without complaining?
Depending how you answered these questions, if there is even one “no”, then they are all “no”! Jesus is the one that set the stipulations, they are his ways, it is his covenant, it is his promise and if we say yes to Jesus’ stipulations, we need to be faithful to it. It’s a contract that every person can make a choice to accept the terms because of the promises given to us when we agree to them and follow the parameters set before us by Jesus himself.
In the way we extend this promise to others matters as well. A sentence that needs to be removed from our repertoire is “have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?” This is truly an evil sentence to utter. Jesus is no one’s personal Savior, he is the Savior of every person of the world. We do not own him. You cannot possess him. He is a gift to the world. He purchased us with HIS blood! He paid the ransom for our souls. It is HIS way, not ours. It is the ONLY WAY that is authentically good. It is a transformational good and if you accept his terms, he will help you become something you never could have imagined, a person free from worldly influence that permits you to be content no matter the circumstances. You see the world around you with fresh eyes, a sensitive heart, and an understanding mind.
Mankind’s unfaithfulness leads to brokenness. It leads to separation. Division. Anger. Wrath. Vengeance. Manmade laws cannot fix it. Why? Our ways are not God’s. And the sad thing is, we will take God’s way and manipulate it to make ourselves more comfortable with it. What an adulterous generation we are.
Deuteronomy 4:2 NIV
2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
…somebody should have reminded Moses of this as it led to future generations who could not even recognize the Way of God when he stood right there in front of them.
Revelation 22:18-19 NIV
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
The reason why the world is getting worse is because what we have done with the Way of God! We have cursed the world by the ways we celebrate or what we want to elaborate what we feel is important. We do not get to set the terms are what we are comfortable in accepting. Jesus laid it out and asks us, is your answer to my terms “yes” or “no”?