Tuesday

12 February 2019

Matthew 5:33-37

'But I say to you, Do not swear 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.'

Psalm: Psalm 18:16-30

Background

These few short verses are about getting to the heart of the matter, and being authentic and honest. Discipleship is about being aware of the intention of the law as a means of living in the love and freedom offered by the character of God.

Here, the Jesus-follower is one who speaks truth, who searches for truth, and who lives with integrity. In a world of fake news and propaganda, this passage has significant power. How do we notice the truth – we notice truth through the reputation of the source material and the clarity of knowing the love of God at the heart of all things.

There are two terms used here – oath and vow. These are distinctive terms, although Jesus’ prescription is the same. An oath is the invocation of God. A vow is a promise to God. In both situations, the person making the promise has to offer a deity by which it is sealed, thus making it unbreakable.

However, even in its original context, humans developed a canny ability to offer a promise, a curse, or a statement without invoking the name of God at all. People became very adept at finding innocuous replacements in order to make sure that there was a get-out clause, or a back stop, in the statement.

Jesus calls out his audience for their creativity – they have been replacing ‘God’ with all sorts of euphemisms in an attempt to remove their responsibility. He invokes Levitical law (Leviticus 19:12) which roundly condemns giving false witness and testimony in the name of God, or any alternatives. Instead they are to mean what they say, speak with clarity and search for truth in all things.

Jesus wants his followers to get their hearts right, and get to the heart of the matter. Rather than the creativity of loopholes in promises, develop the integrity of character which does not need alternatives or excuses.

 Let intentions lead to actions.

Search for truth, and speak truth.

 

To Ponder:

  • What replacement words for God do you (honestly) use in your language today? Does it matter?
  • What does plain speaking and speaking truth matter?
  • How do we spot fake news from truth today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling

Joanne Cox-Darling is a minister in South Staffordshire; a county proud of its creativity and regeneration opportunities. Joanne is chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency – a charity of Churches Together which seeks to enable people to discover faith and faithfulness through the website www.christianity.org.uk. Joanne is the author of the forthcoming book 'Finding God in a Culture of Fear' due for publication in late Spring this year.

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