Saturday, March 16, 2024

Be As Good As Your Word

So far, we have covered the "Ten Commandments" of Jesus--we have looked at murder, adultery, and divorce.  Notice these are all relational commandments:  They represent what has been brought together and how they may separated in a way that contrasts sharply with the Kingdom of God.

Murder is where your life meets someone who would separate you from it. Adultery is where your marriage meets someone (maybe even you) who would separate you from your spouse and reconciliation is possible.  Divorce is where you would separate yourself from you spouse and reconciliation is not possible.    

The Kingdom of God sustains life and relationships, not because we are perfect but because God is in the business of restoring our lives and our relationships with one another. 

Relationships are built and sustained by the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Our relationship with God is sustained by truth.  We cry out to God in all of our painful honesty.  He knows where we are hiding, deep in shame's shadows and He asks us, "Where are you?"  He wants us to be honest with Him, and with each other.  

When you are honest, your integrity shines through.  Honesty is not easy, but when you are honest, even to your own detriment, people realize integrity is an integral part of your character. 

Character.  This is one of the hallmarks of a member of the Kingdom of God. What you say, who you are and what you do are all expressions of your inner self.  Jesus will later talk about how your heart is a storehouse of who you are: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:21)  Whatever you value, whatever you hold sacred, will be stored in your heart, and will come to light whenever you are challenged, tested or needing to draw deeply into your character.  

The word for "heart" in Hebrew carries with it a richness of meaning:

  • "inner man, mind will, heart"
  • "soul"
  • "thinking, reflection"
  • "memory"
  • "specific reference to inclinations, resolutions and determinations of the will"
  • "conscience"
  • "moral character"
  • "seat of pride" [1]
So, you can see, it means way more than feelings.  Our hearts reflect our relationship with God.  A heart united with God will speak volumes of our character when we enter into any kind of relationship. 

Jesus uses oaths as an interesting example about how our character operates when we are ask to bind ourselves to the truth and to another person by what we say: 

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matt. 5:33-37). 

Oaths seem to carry with them an inherent sense of elaboration and showmanship: The more I say, the more I elaborate with grand phases of loyalty and solemnity, the more you should be impressed and see me as an honest person. 

Really?  "The lady, methinks, protests too much"--thank you, Hamlet.  Exactly. The more you say, the more it sounds like you are trying to cover over a variation of the truth or a straight out lie with the wallpaper of words. 

Jesus doesn't let His listeners have any latitude on this--no invoking heaven, earth, Jerusalem or even yourself to make your oath sounds super spiritual.  Your spiritual bluster has no place in the Kingdom of God.  

What does then? A simple but honest, "yes" or "no."


The Kingdom of God requires no more than a "yes" or "no" because your response is coming from a heart that wants to serve God.

Jesus even takes this one step further and attributes any elaboration on your part beyond the yes or no, as coming from Satan. 

Whoa, Rabbi, wait as minute.  In my line of work, a simple yes or no makes me sound like a fool, a simpleton, a gullible person.  I can dish out an oath with the best of them, making darn sure the other person knows I am serious.  He does the same with me, and we exchange oaths and swear by all that is holy to conduct our business.  What if he said a simple yes as well as I?  Hmmm...we could get to know one another better, I suppose, instead of engaging in an oath marathon, and trying to outdo one another. Hmmm.  This Kingdom of God thing is rather straight forward, isn't it, Rabbi?  I suppose Satan, being the deceiver, enjoys when we cover over our deceptive ways with lots of spiritually sounding words.  What are we trying to hide?  After all, Satan enjoys deceit, lies and the ruin such practices ultimately bring to relationships.  I guess being in the Kingdom means distancing yourself as far from anything that gives Satan enjoyment. 

Exactly.  The truth is simple, really.  Jesus wants those of us who carry His name to act as He did:  in absolute integrity of character.

And not only does He model it, He empowers us to do so as well.  The Kingdom of God is not a country club where you have to put on a front and act a certain way to be accepted by others.

The Kingdom of God is a lovely dinner, sitting and sharing with one another without pretense or guile, joyous in spirit and making the Father smile. 

Who wouldn't want to come to such a table?

[1] "Heart," Brown-Driver-Briggs Dictionary,

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