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Connection Points: Oaths

March 03 2014
March 03 2014


33 “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.’ 34 But I say to you, ‘Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.’” (Matthew 5:33-37)


While Jesus is not directly quoting the Old Testament here, he is bringing together the ninth commandment, which deals with aspects of truthfulness in the past and present, with vows to the Lord, which deals with truthfulness in the future (Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2, Deuteronomy 23:21-24), in order to ask us a question about our integrity and honesty in all of our past, present, and future relationships. D.A Carson says, ‘Now all of this swearing, these oaths, are designed to encourage truthfulness, or to make truthfulness the more solemn and sure.’ The problem at the time of Jesus, however, is that the Jews were both using vows to lie, and using vows to undermine their duty to honor God to speak truthfully. Instead of using vows to substantiate our truth claims, Jesus is essentially saying that it is better to simply be of such character that our ‘Yes’ and our ‘No’ is good enough.


‘Many kids begin lying to their peers as a coping mechanism: it’s a way to vent frustration or get attention. They might be attempting to compensate, feeling they’re slipping behind their peers. Any sudden spate of lying, or dramatic increase in lying, is a sign that something has changed in that [person’s] life…Lying is a symptom, a strategy to keep themselves afloat.’ Nurture Shock, 83

‘In studies, scholars find that kids who live in threat of consistent punishment don’t lie less, instead they become better liars… [Although] just removing the threat of punishment is not enough to extract honesty from kids… [But] what really works is to tell the child, ‘I will not be upset with you, but if you tell the truth, I will be very pleased with you.’ Ibid., 85-86

‘The most common reason for deception was, ‘I’m trying to protect my relationship with my parents; I don’t want them to be disappointed in me.’’ Ibid., 139

Question for Parents:

God, who already knows our hearts, asks us to be honest with him. What are some situations that you would prefer to believe the lie than know the truth about your child? What does that desire say about how you think about honesty and grace? How can you better model the grace of God to your children in light of this reflection?

Question for Students:

We often lie as a way of protecting our reputation and relationships. Do you think that lying to God is a good strategy to protect your relationship with him? God knows every one of your secrets and still invites you in his family. What do you think that says about the character of God?


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