BEING SINCERE IN OUR SPEECH

25 Sep

Kids can be creative in so many ways. When Destiny was younger and she would be in her mama’s classroom, she would play school.  She would lead an empty classroom in the pledge of allegiance.  What an imagination!

For me, well you may not believe this, but I was a strange kid. Since I was in elementary school, I wanted to be in ministry.  I loved watching Dr. Patrick, the pastor who baptized me, I  would take notes on the things that Brother Jack Clinkscales, who influenced my call to ministry, preach.  Bobby Fuller started preaching revivals in my home church when I was a pre-teen and I was riveted by his preaching style. And I learned from Ken McMeans about balancing ministry and life. As a kid, I would practice preaching in my room in front of my dresser mirror.

But I also loved cowboy movies. I watched John Wayne all the time. Loved “Big Jake”, “The Alamo”, the “Shootist”… but my favorite Western hero was “The Lone Ranger”… My Dad bought me a couple of cap guns that looked just like authentic western holsters. I didn’t have a mask but I did have a red bandana.

So sometimes when I was left without a playmate, I would combine my two worlds. I would become the “Outlaw Missionary”. Like the Lone Ranger,  I would fight those who would bring injustice to the world. I would encounter these evil villains as I travelled the world preaching the Gospel.  But when I found these evildoers, I would put on my mask so they could not know my identity as clergy and I would go after them. Like my hero, I would only shoot to wound but never to kill.

Yeah, I was weird.

But our imagination as a child can be an awesome thing.

Unfortunately, after we become adults, the line that separates fact from fiction is not drawn clearly enough. That wonderful faculty for imagination can be misused in lying or deceiving others.

Fundamental to relationships is the aspect of truth. When we believe what someone is saying we can form a relational bond that results in the sharing and depths of thoughts and feelings. And if someone breaks that bond, it can result in total mistrust and cause us to wall off from certain people or in some cases, everybody.

In their consciences people know that truth is right and essential. That is one reason that even in their lies, they go to such lengths to make what they say appear to be truthful. Our problem is in being truthful. Unfortunately, many people are inclined to the truth only when it benefits them.

The question for each of concerns the pattern of our speech? Are we prone to say something and not follow through? Do we play word games and assure ourselves that “at least we didn’t lie”? If so, we do well to look at the teaching that Jesus has for us and learn from the Jews of Jesus’ day.

The ancient Jewish rabbis revered the idea of truth in principle, but in practice it was buried under their system of tradition, which over the centuries had continually cut God’s law down to fit their own sinful perspectives and purposes. In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus proceeds to expose the convenient distortion and contradiction of the divine revelation they claimed to love and teach. In these five verses Jesus sets forth:
1) Promising Speech, 2) False Speech, and 3) Godly Speech

First, let’s look at Promising Speech. Matthew 5:33
Matthew 5:33

[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).’ (ESV)

Okay, time for a little Greek lesson.

The traditional teaching that Jesus quotes here was a composite of ideas found in the Old Testament.

The two vows mentioned here are from two different, but related, Greek terms. The first is from the verb epiorkeô, which means to perjure oneself, to swear falsely, to make false vows. The second is from the noun horkos, which literally means to enclose, as with a fence, or to bind together. The truth of an oath or vow is enclosed, bound, and therefore strengthened by that which is invoked on its behalf.

A clear description of an oath is given in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 6:16

[16]For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. (ESV)

The name of something or someone greater than the person making the oath is invoked to give greater credibility to what is said. Any oath calling on God invites Him to witness the truthfulness of what is said or to avenge if it is a lie. An oath was therefore generally taken to be the absolute truth, which made “an end of every dispute,” because it invited judgment on the one who violated his word.

Jesus many times used the phrase “Truly I say to you” to call attention to a teaching of special importance. As with God’s oaths, the words Jesus introduces with “truly” are no more truthful than anything else He said, but emphasize the unique importance of certain of His teachings. It is important to note that Jesus Himself swore an oath before Caiaphas:
Matthew 26:63-64 [63]But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God (I charge you under oath), tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” [64]Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

That was a righteous oath. But I want you to check out what happened with Peter not long after that.
Matthew 26:69-74 [69]Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” [70]But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” [71]And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” [72]And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” [73]After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” [74]Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. (ESV)
That swearing was not profanity, but an oath given with special emphasis. Peter increased the strength of his oath, but that did not increase the truth of what he said. It was bad enough to have lied; it was even worse to call God as a witness to the lie. In addition to denying His Lord, Peter used God’s name in vain. It is small wonder that he “went out and wept bitterly” (v. 75).

God established the seriousness of keeping an oath… keeping a promise.

The psalmist, in describing the kind of person who may enter God’s holy presence, makes clear that one mandatory requirement:
Psalm 15:1-4

[15:1]O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? [2]He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; [3]who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; [4]in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Keeping oaths made to God is the mark of a true worshiper. To put it another way, true sons of the kingdom hate lies.

The lesson for people of any age is how serious God regards truth and how severely lies interfere with our relationship with God and with one another.

In the movie Mary Poppins, the two children, Jane and Michael Banks, jumped into bed after their incredible first day with the amazing Mary Poppins. Jane asked, “Mary Poppins, you won’t ever leave us, will you?” Michael, full of excitement, looked at his new nanny and added, “Will you stay if we promise to be good?” Mary looked at the two and as she tucked them in replied, “Look, that’s a pie-crust promise. Easily made, easily broken!

We have seen Promising Speech,  and now:

False Speech.
Matthew 5:33

[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.’ (ESV)

The tradition Jesus mentions in verse 33 seemed to be biblical, but it had several flaws that made it fall short of what the Old Testament actually taught. First, it had a missing ingredient, and second, it had a misplaced emphasis.

The missing ingredient was a proper circumstance for making an oath.

People would declare anything and promise anything with an oath even if they really had no intention of carrying it out.

Instead of being a mark of integrity they became a mark of deceit. Instead of prompting confidence they prompted skepticism.

Their misplaced emphasis was in limiting the honest oaths to vows to the Lord, to oaths made directly to Him or in His name. The keeping of those oaths to the Lord was rightly regarded as mandatory, whereas the keeping of oaths to others they falsely made optional.

We must be very careful that the need for truth is seen as necessary for all people. Kids should not just be encouraged to tell the truth to adults, thereby implicitly instructed that it’s OK to deceive other kids.

The system of oaths between one person and another was like a giant game. People would swear by heaven, by the earth, by the Temple, by the hairs on their heads, and by any other thing they thought would impress those they wanted to take advantage of. That kind of routine oath-making was usually lie-making; and it was considered by those who practiced it to be perfectly acceptable as long as it was not in the name of the Lord.

In our time this custom is found in phrases such as: “I swear by God,” “cross my heart and hope to die,” “stick a needle in my eye” or “I sear on my mother’s grave or I’d swear on a stack of Bibles.”

Leviticus 19:12

[12]You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (ESV)

This was misrepresented and interpreted to mean that swearing falsely by any other name was allowed.
The most severe punishment for children should be reserved for lies. Not only does this highlight how important truth is to God but kids will be encouraged to be truthful if they know that deception will be treated more serious than any infraction.

We have seen Promising Speech, False Speech AND FINALLY:

Godly Speech. Matthew 5:34-37
[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. (ESV)

Jesus is not saying “No oath at all”… not in the truest interpretation. After all, in Romans, the Apostle Paul made an oath before the Roman tribunal that he was not lying.

So what is Jesus trying to say.

Simply this:

Be people of integrity.  Be people who simply because they want to honor Jesus, cannot bring themselves to lie.
Christians bear God’s name and every action or inaction is a reflection on God. The most damaging impact that a faulty testimony can have on a lost world can seem to be almost irreparable.

God’s absolute, unchanging standard is truth and sincerity in everything. Not only should oaths be totally truthful and dependable, but even the most routine conversations should be truthful in every detail.
Matthew 5:37 [37]Let what you say be simply ’Yes’ or ’No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (ESV)

Ephesians 4:29 [29]Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (ESV)

God is a holy God, His kingdom is a holy kingdom, and the people of His kingdom are to be a holy people. His righteousness is to be their righteousness, and anything less than His righteousness, including anything less than absolute truth, is unacceptable to Him, because it comes from/is of evil. So our Lord shatters the fragile glass of their hypocritical oaths, which they used to cover lies.

We also need to remember that our Lord hears every word, not just the oaths, and that we will give account of all our words:
Matthew 12:36 [36]I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, (ESV)

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