Sermon: To Tell the Truth
Scripture: Matthew 5:33-37
In this week’s lessons, we see the importance of telling the truth, and of the need to cultivate a godly heart and mind.
Theme: Evasive Oaths
The second perversion of the proper use of oaths by the people of Christ’s time was worse. It was evasive swearing. People who were afraid to swear by the name of the Lord because they were not telling the full truth began to swear by things. And because mere things were not thought to be as significant as the name of God, this second class of oaths was not considered to be binding. Some persons swore by their own life (1 Sam. 1:26) or their health (Ps. 15:4). Others swore by the king (1 Sam. 17:55). Still others swore, as Jesus indicates, by their head, the earth, heaven, the temple, or Jerusalem (Matt. 5:34–36; cf. 23:16, 22). All such oaths were evasive.
Jesus replied to this perversion, “Woe unto you, blind guides, who say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind; for which is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is bound. Ye fools and blind; for which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whosoever, therefore, shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things on it. And whosoever shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth in it. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him who sitteth on it” (Matt. 23:16-22). In other words, life simply cannot be divided into neat little compartments, some of which are exempt from God’s presence and some of which are not. God is everywhere. He is in every compartment of life. Hence, the truth is as important in one situation and at one time as another.
Now I know that you may be saying, “Well, I admit that what you are teaching is true. God is truth and those who are God’s should be like Him. It is true, but it is not very easy. In fact, there are situations where shading the truth seems to be demanded by people and where telling the full truth, at least for me, is impossible.” Well, I admit that to speak the truth and stand by it will sometimes seem impossible and the more so because we are not naturally constituted to do it. However, the answer to the problem is that with God all things are possible. Jesus said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). In His strength many persons who previously could not control their tongues have learned to do it.
In one of the books of Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein, headmaster emeritus of the Stony Brook School for Boys on Long Island and a former associate editor of Christianity Today, there is a discussion of the means to control our speech that is quite pertinent to this study. I should like to share it with you. Dr. Gaebelein writes, “Tongue control? It will never be achieved unless there is first of all heart and mind control. The tongue is the servant of the mind and the emotions. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul gives us in a single magnificent phrase the key to victory over the tongue: ‘Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.’ Whence come our words? They come, of course, from our minds. Antecedent to the word is thought or emotion. Christ only is worthy to have full control of a man’s mind. And He who is worthy is also able to do what no man can do for himself. Salvation applies to the whole man. The cleansing of the soul includes also the cleansing of the mind. When any Christian comes to the point of yielding to the Lord in full sincerity, cost what it may, control of his thought life, the problem of managing his tongue, will be solved, provide that such a surrender goes deeper than the intellect and reaches the emotions and the will. For the Bible makes a distinction between mere intellectual knowledge of God and the trust of the heart.”
Describe the second perversion of oaths seen in Jesus’ time.
What argument did Jesus make when condemning the Pharisees for an evasive oath?
Application: Can you remember any occasions when you were tempted to avoid telling the truth, or being deceitful by not telling all of the truth and therefore giving a false impression of the reality? How did you handle that situation?