Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount …
When is it ok to lie?
Should you always be honest about everything?
We all know about little “white lies”, when a small lie seems harmless and the actual truth may not be well received.
Jesus takes time in the middle of His great sermon to talk about honesty.
Jesus has been teaching about the law in the Sermon on the Mount. He showed that God’s law is not simply a list of do’s and don’ts, it is a relationship with Him (see here). He then uses a series of examples to show that there is a much higher standard than the written law if we are to be His followers, and part of His kingdom.
He starts with the example of murder. You cannot say you are a good person, simply because you never murdered anyone. Even hatred, anger, and broken relationships leave you guilty before God (see here).
The next example is adultery. It is not just the physical act of adultery, but any lustful thought leaves you guilty before God (see here).
Jesus follows the example of adultery with the example of divorce. Marriage is holy and honorable before God. It is not to broken by unfaithfulness, nor by divorce. Simple legal proceedings do not entitle you to separate from your spouse, and any such actions leave you guilty of both your own and your spouse’s unfaithfulness (see here).
Jesus then uses the next example to warn His listeners about taking an oath. At a first glance, this is not the example that we would expect to follow. Jesus has been talking about serious issues: murder, adultery, divorce, … now oaths? How can this be as serious as the others?
But taken from another perspective, Jesus is not teaching about rituals but about our character. He is not giving new rules to govern murder but He is teaching that we must show forgiveness. He is not giving new rules to govern adultery but He is teaching that we must show purity. He is not giving new rules to govern marriage but He is teaching that we must show faithfulness.
And finally, He is not giving new rules to govern how to give oaths but He is teaching that we must show honesty.
“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.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.