Tell the Truth…Really!
In the next section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turns His attention to telling the truth. We read His words in Matthew 5:33-37: 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
The problem that Jesus is addressing is that the religious leaders had twisted the idea of telling the truth. They had established certain oaths or “formulas” by which they could say something that wasn’t true or make a vow they never intended to fully fulfill. Since they weren’t swearing by the name of God, they considered it OK to not be truthful. Jesus simply says that His followers should not do that.
Why the big deal? The big deal is that God is a God of truth. Truth is one of the essential characteristics of God. His followers should emulate that. We will fail to be perfect, but we shouldn’t start out the process with “built in” ways in which we can lie and it not matter. You don’t have to “promise”. Just let your “yes be yes” and your “no be no”. Practically, this may mean that you have to say “yes” a lot less often because you don’t know all the circumstances around what saying “yes” might mean. Maybe something like “that is my plan right now” or “unless something significant comes up” is better than simply saying “yes”. How this applies in each of our lives is different, but the truth is the same. Tell the truth.