Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to keep your word?
Imagine if you could simply say one thing but mean another and simply benefit from your lie? Or wouldn’t it be great if you could say you’ll do something, but then never have to follow through and be completely free of the consequences?
- You could agree to mow the yard but never have to actually do it!
- You could say you’ll have dinner on the table for your family but then just get take-out for one instead!
- Instead of paying it off, you could kindly inform your mortgage company that you’d just like to stay in your house without honoring your agreement. You gave it your all, right? Kinda? Good enough!
- Keeping your marriage vows?!? Isn’t that outdated?
However tempting this reality may seem, we can all recognize its foolishness. We also know the benefits of giving and receiving honesty, not just do-gooded-ness and kindness, but genuine honesty. As we’ll see in today’s Tough Text, Jesus is after our hearts, hearts that he wants to produce genuine, lasting lives of honesty.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continues to utilize a formula of “You have heard said…but I say to you…”
The “you have heard it said” from verse 33 is simple: back up your word. Follow through. Do what you said you’ll do. Most 1st graders can regurgitate the same truism.
The “but I say to you” part (vv.34-36) is where it gets interesting. Jesus seems to forbid taking any oath (promise, agreement, contract, etc.). Obviously this is hyperbole. Jesus is well aware that we live in a world in which we must take oaths. Yet he’s also pointing us to a future reality in the kingdom of God when we will not have to take oaths. But what is Jesus after now? What does this have to do with us? Once again: our hearts.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I read the Scriptures I do so as a crooked lawyer trying to find loopholes that don’t apply to me. That’s the audience Jesus is speaking to because he doesn’t abolish the old laws of not making oaths you can’t fulfill. Rather, he takes it a step further.Jesus is calling us to be people of radical honesty, which extends far past our words.
Notice: We are the most dishonest when we’re trying to convince people we are someone that we’re not.
This extends much further than the trite examples of a teenage boy trying to convince a girl he’s date-worthy or a debtor repeatedly telling a creditor that the check that is not written is in the mail.
Do you know what it means to simply let your “yes” mean yes? Or “no” mean no? It means you have to stop faking it. You have to stop faking like everything is alright when it’s not. You have to first have the courage to take an honest look at yourself and then consider who you can let in on your story.
If you’re stuck in a hard time now, don’t play the denial game and try and keep people out by faking them out.
It’s okay to not be okay. In fact, Jesus commands us to be honest about it. Let’s stop faking it and be honest, radically honest.
This frees you to recognize how you’ve been in denial about the darkness in your own life. It frees you from having to pretend you’re someone you’re not. It frees you to recognize that cancer sucks. It’s much more often something that kills you instead of something you fight. It means if the love of your life just walked out on you for someone else that it’s okay to be shocked and hurt. And it’s okay to let others into your pain.
Does Jesus want you to be a person of your word and do what you say you’ll do? Absolutely. But maybe more than that he wants you to be honest with yourself.