121209 sm 10 to tell the truth matthew 5 33-37


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Lesson 10 in a series on the Sermon on the Mount. Adapted from a lesson with the same title by Chip Bell at www.Bible.org. Presented December 9, 2012, at Palm Desert Church of Christ, by Dale Wells.

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  • Early skill we learn by ourselves, without assistance of parent or teacher. We don’t need to have it modeled. We have a natural talent for it when we are really young. Just after we learn to talk, we learn to lie. I remember a lie I told my parents. They knew they could always count on me to tell the truth. Wayne would lie, even when truth would serve him better.One day, Wayne, our friend David, and I had enough of the busybody who lived between us. She minded everybody’s business but her own. So we wrote an anonymous, hateful letter to her and mailed it. Wayne wrote the letter, but all were co-conspirators.Ms. R. came over all upset. My parents asked me whether I knew anything about it (not whether I wrote it – an easier lie). I knew two things: (1) Wayne would lie about it, and (2) since my parents trusted me, I could get away with lying. So I told them I didn’t know anything about it.Parents don’t always play fair. They asked Wayne, but before he could answer, they produced his draft of the letter – the one he put in the trash can without my knowing it. He came clean.The worst thing was that I knew I had betrayed my parents’ trust.For the rest of my life, I’ve remembered that lesson.
  • Matthew 5:33-37 & related passage in Mat. 23, where Jesus talks about the importance of telling the truth. Part of the Sermon on the Mount, “The Disciple’s Handbook” – Jesus teaches disciples what he expects of us. This section is about The Disciple’s Code, rules we ought to follow as his disciples. We don’t follow the rules to BECOME disciples; we follow the rules because we ARE disciples and we trust God to tell us the truth. When he says something is off limits, we believe that he’s got our best interests at heart and that he’s trying to spare us from the pain and destruction that sin would produce if we gave it the chance.
  • As Jesus lays out the Disciple’s Code, he is explaining not just the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law, the law’s intent. It’s not enough to avoid sinful behaviors. We also need to honor God with our thoughts, our motives and our attitudes—the inner things only God can know about us. Matthew 5 contains six comparisons between “external performance” & the “internal obedience” God desires. Jesus talks about anger, sexual desire, divorce, lying, revenge, and hatred. He calls us to commit ourselves not just to obeying the external requirements of the law, but also to allowing the Disciple’s Code to govern our thoughts, motives & attitudes. Over the past several weeks, we’ve talked about three of these comparisons. ^First, anger. It’s not just murder that’s wrong. It’s also wrong to maintain unresolved anger. ^ Next, lust. It’s not only against the law to cheat on your spouse. It’s also wrong to entertain the desire to have an affair. ^ Then, divorce. Although the Bible allows divorce, God’s intention is that we remain faithful to our spouses even when things get difficult. ^ Today we look at the fourth of these six contrasts as Jesus teaches us about truth. As before, he begins with what his followers already knew about telling the truth from the OT.
  • 2. Translations treat Matthew 5:33 differently: NIV Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord. NAS Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord. Which of the following do you think better expresses the idea of the Old Testament reference?41% - Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep (NAS)59% - Don’t break your promises once you have made them (NIV)The answer is probably “Both of the above”, but I wanted to force you to make a choice to see which way you leaned between two right answers.
  • “Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye.” Shake the secret handshake.
  • 3. All other things being equal, do you put more, or less, confidence in another person's word if he/she swears to the truthfulness of that word?54% - More46% - LessI could have added “It depends”For example, if it’s an oath in court, you might trust it more, but if it’s just a gratuitous “Honest, I swear it” added by someone you suspect is being dishonest, you might trust it less.It’s interesting that almost half have less confidence when a person swears he/she is telling the truth.Why, because of the purpose of oaths.
  • 1. What is the purpose of oaths?89% - To demonstrate honesty11% - To mask dishonestyOaths are intended to demonstrate honesty. Unfortunately, dishonest people sometimes use oaths to hide their dishonesty, so we tend to be suspicious of them.
  • An oath was a solemn promise someone made to indicate that they were telling the truth. The story of the Old Testament is full of examples—oaths are mentioned almost 200 times! This practice didn’t begin with the law. It already existed in Abraham’s day, 500 years before Moses. But the law picks up the practice and talks about the significance of making an oath.
  • The OT teaches that a person following God, an honest person, will fulfill their promises. You will be able to rely on him doing what he said he would do. But not everyone tells the truth. Some people tend to make what Mary Poppins calls “pie crust promises”—easily made and easily broken. Because of that we sometimes don’t believe people when they say they will do something. But if they swear that they will do it, that usually means something more to us. “I will do it” vs. “I swear I will do it.” It seems more reliable, more believable. At least they seem to know that they are making a promise.
  • In OT, when there were no witnesses to a civil matter involving property theft, loss or damage, testimony under oath was to be accepted as true testimony (even though no one else could corroborate it).
  • When no human witness can validate our words, an oath involves an appeal to some supernatural witness: An oath is the promise someone makes when he swears. Today, right here in church, we’re going to talk about swearing and cursing. Interestingly enough, swearing and cursing have come to mean, “using profane or vulgar language”.
  • 4. When Jesus says "Do not swear at all" (NRSV), do you believe he intended to prohibit judicial oaths?27% - Yes73% - No As we’ll see today, the answer is “No”.
  • But both swearing and cursing were originally meant to validate: ^ the truth of a statement (like I didn’t take your cow), or^ the certainty of a promise (like the vow made to the Lord)Swearing and cursing are two different methods of validation:
  • Swearing an oath does so by invoking a greater witness. ^ “By God, I’m going to do it.”^ “As God is my witness.”^ “I swear on my mother’s grave.”^ “That’s the God’s honest truth.”^ My favorite: “Do you swear to tell the truth, etc., so help you God?”
  • May this happen to me (or to you) if this isn’t true or if I don’t do it. ^ “Well, I’ll be damned.”^ “God help you if you’re lying to me.”^ “Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye.”Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. It’s an old schoolyard oath that it’s basis in reality. Back in the good old days there was a custom to stick a needle in the eye of a corpse to make sure that someone wasn’t still alive before they were buried.
  • When Peter denies Jesus three times, the first time he denies it. The second time, he denies it with an oath. The third time, he calls down curses on himself and swears to them.
  • Swearing is used in the Bible and used by God! Gen. 9:9-11 – God’s oath to Noah not to destroy the world by water again.Luke 1:73 refers to “the oath he swore to our father Abraham”Acts 2:25-31 David said about him: "'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.' (Psa. 16) 29 "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.The important thing, from the perspective of the Old Testament, is that ^ If you’re going to swear something is true, then it better be true. ^ And if you swear you’re going to do something, then you better make sure you do it.
  • Often, God was called as a witness to an oath. And so he told the people that if you’re going to use him as a reference, then you better be serious about telling the truth. In fact, this is what the third of the ten commandments is talking about:
  • The phrase translated in NIV “misuse” literally means, “to lift up without any purpose.” God said that if you use his name, there better be some meaning behind it. He doesn’t want to be party to our lies and deceptions. But the intention of the OT was not that words under oath are the only words that are binding! The intention was that it is wrong to lie under oath, just as it is wrong to lie at any time.
  • Oaths were corrupted to allow for deception. Unfortunately, whenever there’s room for a loophole, people usually find it. By the time we get to Jesus’ day, people had found a way to actually use these oaths in order to lie. Modern cultural background: My promise didn’t count because I crossed my fingers!
  • The point of the OT was to say that because we should fulfill our oaths because we should always be honest. The Pharisees interpreted it to mean that ONLY when you made an oath did you have to tell the truth, and even then, it only had to be a certain kind of oath. That is not at all what God meant. That’s why Jesus said what he did in Matt 5
  • Does this absolutely forbid taking an oath? Quakers. Jehovah’s Witnesses. Others.
  • 4. When Jesus says "Do not swear at all" (NRSV), do you believe he intended to prohibit judicial oaths?16% - Yes84% - No The answer is a clear “No”Jesus testified under oath in a court proceeding.Matthew 26:63-64 … The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."64 "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.Paul swore oaths in his letters to Christians. Rom. 1:9 “God is my witness …”2 Cor. 1:23 “I call God as my witness …”
  • Trustworthiness depends on integrity. Don’t cross that line.When I was an attorney, another attorney came to me and told me something a judge had said about me. I’ve always considered it a badge of honor.The judge said – without me knowing anything about it – that if Dale Wells tells you something, it is true.Even now, thinking about that gives me goose bumps. I tell attorneys all the time not to barter away their integrity. If I ever find them playing fast-and-loose with the truth, it will be an uphill struggle for them to ever regain my trust.In fact, some of my favorite attorneys are the ones who will fire their own clients before representing them in a lie in my courtroom.That’s why Jesus says,
  • 121209 sm 10 to tell the truth matthew 5 33-37

    1. 1. TO TELL THE TRUTH Matthew 5:33-37; 23:16-22THE DISCIPLE’S HANDBOOKStudies in the Sermon on the Mount
    2. 2. THE DISCIPLE’S HANDBOOK Worship Economy Code RelationshipsCharacter Disciple’s Choices
    3. 3. THE DISCIPLE’S CODEGood Enough (5:17-20) To Tell the Truth (5:33-37)If Looks Could Kill (5:21-26)Flames of Desire (5:27-30)Breaking Up is Hard … on You! (5:31-32)
    4. 4. 2. Translations treat Matthew 5:33 differently. Which of the following do you think better expresses the idea of the Old Testament reference? 41% Dont make promises you59% dont intend to keep Dont break your promises once you have made them
    5. 5. CROSS MY HEARTAnd hope to die – stick a needle in my eye!?
    6. 6. 3. All other things being equal, do you put more, orless, confidence in another persons word if he/she swears to the truthfulness of that word? 46% 54% More Less
    7. 7. 1. What is the purpose of oaths?11% To demonstrate honesty To mask dishonesty 89%
    8. 8. Matthew 5:33Again, you have heard that it wassaid to the people long ago, Donot break your oath, but keep theoaths you have made to the Lord.
    9. 9. Numbers 30:2When a man makes a vow to the LORD ortakes an oath to obligate himself by apledge, he must not break his word but mustdo everything he said.
    10. 10. Exodus 22:10-11"If a man gives …[an] animal to his neighbor forsafekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken awaywhile no one is looking, 11 the issue between themwill be settled by the taking of an oath before theLORD that the neighbor did not lay hands on theother persons property. The owner is to acceptthis, and no restitution is required.
    11. 11. Hebrews 6:16Men swear by someone greaterthan themselves, and the oathconfirms what is said and puts anend to all argument.
    12. 12. 5. When Jesus said "Do not swear at all" (NRSV), do you think he had common profanity in mind? 27% Yes No 73%
    13. 13. Swearing & Cursing Validate …The truth of • I didn’t take your cowa statementThe certainty • A vow made to the Lordof a promise
    14. 14. Swearing an oath invokes a witness“By God, I’m going “As God is my “I swear on my to do it.” witness.” mother’s grave.” “Do you swear to tell the “That’s the God’s honest truth, the whole truth, and truth.” nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
    15. 15. Cursing invokes dire consequences “Well, I’ll be “God help you if damned.” you’re lying to me.” “Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye.”
    16. 16. God Swore Oaths Expectations About Oaths If you swear If you swear you’re something is going to dotrue, it had better something, you had be true. better do it.
    17. 17. Leviticus 19:12"Do not swear falsely by myname and so profane the name ofyour God. I am the LORD.
    18. 18. Exodus 20:7"You shall not misuse the name of the LORDyour God, for the LORD will not hold anyoneguiltless who misuses his name.
    19. 19. CROSSED MY FINGERSSo it doesn’t count – or does it?
    20. 20. Matthew 23:16-22"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, If anyoneswears by the temple, it means nothing; but ifanyone swears by the gold of the temple, he isbound by his oath. 17 You blind fools! Which isgreater: the gold, or the temple that makes the goldsacred? 18 You also say, If anyone swears by thealtar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by thegift on it, he is bound by his oath.
    21. 21. Matthew 23:16-2219 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or thealtar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, hewho swears by the altar swears by it and byeverything on it. 21 And he who swears by thetemple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.22 And he who swears by heaven swears by Godsthrone and by the one who sits on it.
    22. 22. Matthew 5:34-36But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either byheaven, for it is Gods throne; 35 or by theearth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, forit is the city of the Great King. 36 And do notswear by your head, for you cannot make evenone hair white or black.
    23. 23. 4. When Jesus says "Do not swear at all" (NRSV), do you believe he intended to prohibit judicial oaths? 16% Yes No 84%
    24. 24. DON’T CROSS THE LINEOnce you cross, you may never get back across!
    25. 25. Matthew 5:37Simply let your Yes be Yes, andyour No, No; anything beyondthis comes from the evil one.
    26. 26. James 5:12Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not byheaven or by earth or by anything else. Letyour "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or youwill be condemned.
    27. 27. 1 Peter 3:10For, "Whoever would love life and see gooddays must keep his tongue from evil and hislips from deceitful speech.
    28. 28. Proverbs 12:22The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights inmen who are truthful.
    29. 29. Proverbs 19:5A false witness will not go unpunished, andhe who pours out lies will not go free.
    30. 30. Psalms 5:6You destroy those whotell lies.
    31. 31. Revelation 21:8The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, themurderers, the sexually immoral, those whopractice magic arts, the idolaters and allliars—their place will be in the fiery lake ofburning sulfur.
    32. 32. Colossians 3:9-10Do not lie to each other, since you have takenoff your old self with its practices 10 and haveput on the new self, which is being renewed inknowledge in the image of its Creator.
    33. 33. Ephesians 4:25Each of you must put off falsehood and speaktruthfully to his neighbor, for we are allmembers of one body.
    34. 34. SUMMING UPGiving an Oath Matters
    35. 35. Giving an oath matters Then giving anBecause not all But if all your oath doesn’twords are true. words are true, matter.