Cross my heart…
We live in a society where we have amazingly complex system of lawyer and contracts, to make sure that we do as we say we will. It doesn’t seem to make anybody more truthful. If it did, why then when it comes to day-to-day promises such as arranging to meet someone, are we so flippant in letting people down or moving them to another time? This law in Matthew 5 focuses on keeping promises (oaths). Today I have gone through and shared my thoughts on each of the verses:
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the vows you have made.’” (Matthew 5:33). In the Old Testament, oaths (promises) were only to be made in God’s name for affirming important matters, and they were to be kept true. To use God’s name in an oath which is not kept true is to go directly against the Third Commandment. God presents us with a standard of truthfulness that is greatly higher than that of humans. In previous writing it specifically says that you should swear oaths in his name, so why in the rest of this New Testament passage the sudden change of heart?
‘But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.’ (Matthew 5:34-35). Every word that passes our lips, even those that aren’t said aloud, are heard by Him. Why then, Jesus says, do we think it is necessary to swear an oath to God at all. As time moved on, oaths were said more and more as if designed to impress and therefore create acceptance of what they have just said, rather than them meaning anything at all. We should be careful when promising in general, but to use the Lord’s name carelessly was something that Jesus wanted to help us understand was bad.
‘And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.’ (Matthew 5:36). Here Jesus says to not bother swearing penalties on yourself (e.g. ‘cross my heart and hope to die’) when someone doubts your honesty, because you do not even have the power to change the colour of one strand of hair. If you swear in this way, it then makes you the liar. In addition, you also sin by giving yourself Godly traits.
‘All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.’ (Matthew 5:37). Children are always testing us. They love to see how far they can push the boundaries, how far they can go before they either get the message and give in or the parent gives in. The latter of these I hope doesn’t happen very often, but I fear that, especially when the parent is exhausted, they give in far more often than they should. When a parent says ‘No’, does it stay a ‘No’ until the end or actually end up becoming a ‘Yes’? On the contrary, when someone says ‘Yes’ to a child, do they actually do what they have agreed to do? Are these words in fact used loosely?
What does this teach children about obedience, truth, reliability and trust? It is worrying to think that they may then transfer these human traits to the character of God. If a child learns, on the other hand, to do as their parent says and to trust them to fulfil their promises, I think they have a big advantage over other children in learning about God and how to behave in a Christian way.
All of the laws so far all have an underlying theme of responsibility for what we say and do. Everything Jesus says leads back to the foundation that God can see straight into our hearts. This particular law may not seem as major after all the murder, adultery and eye-gouging, but it goes deep down to the heart of a person’s character – to what it means to live in truth as a child of God.
I am pretty excited about tomorrow’s topic, so make sure to check back for the law on… revenge.