Good morning and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. My name is Alan and together we are taking a look at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is teaching the hordes of people that have gathered around him what the kingdom life looks like. Yesterday we discussed ‘anger’ and read about lust and divorce. Today’s passage, chapter 5:33-48 covers the topics of speaking plainly and honestly, compensation, revenge, and the response kingdom people give to those who would do us harm. Remember Jesus isn’t trying to rewrite the Law and the prophets – God’s will revealed to the Israelite people over hundreds of years – he is describing the characteristics of a child of God. It is a transformation of the heart that God wants to fashion in us by enabling us to partner with the Spirit. This shouldn’t make us feel guilty and inadequate… a failure, no! But it may reveal to us that we still have a long way to go.
So let’s take a look at another facet of the kingdom lifestyle, Matthew 5:33-34a, 37
“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… All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Words and promises! It is easy to read these words and think that we don’t make oaths and vows… that’s reserved for the marriage service and if I’m married, I think I’m doing ok and if I’m not, well it doesn’t really apply to me. Tick! So what’s next Jesus?
But let’s look a little deeper. What would we be trying to do if we were to take an oath or make a vow?
Surely it has something to do with trying to convince the person you are talking to that what you say is true… to persuade… or even… dare I say it… to manipulate the other person.
I remember being at school and someone opening a packet of sweets. “Go on, give me one…” here it comes… “I’ll be your best friend!”
Now everyone knew that was tosh. It was a phrase thrown around to try and get what we wanted. There was going to be no change to the status of our relationship. Little me engaging in the dark arts that Jesus is rooting out here – little lies and half truths said to manipulate others.
Of course I don’t use the same language now. I don’t remember the last time that I used the phrase ‘go on I’ll be your best friend!” but maybe I will dig it out and give it a try with some of the team at church at lunch!
But we still do it! It may be way more sophisticated, we may not as readily recognise it but it is there all the same.
In Brexit negotiations there has been an outcry at the government’s intention to pass a law which would go back on a promise they made to the European parliament… are they guilty of saying what was needed to get their own way, promising something… and then not following through?
I am not passing judgement or trying to be political… because we all do the same thing.
We can keep our thoughts to ourselves because we fear the response, we can say what we think others want to hear. We can use flattery, or adopt a tone of voice… “daaaad…?” “how much do you want?”
We can nag, we can serve others, we can give gifts, we can try and secure our position, we can avoid the elephant in the room… although it’s hard to socially distance when the elephant is taking up so much space!!
Jesus says no!
He says that in our dealing with others we need to engage in plain speaking, truth telling, openness, honesty… no game playing… no politics… no kicking the can down the road.
Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no.
Tom is our interim leader. He is really good at speaking plainly, addressing what needs to be addressed, exposing elephants that sneak in to meetings.
But there is a new sheriff in town, a new boss. It would be easy to slip into trying to say the right thing, to flatter, to try and secure my position… to play a political game. But what would be gained? I want to be where God wants me to be. My security needs to rest in him. I am determined to simply let my ‘yes’ be yes and my ‘no’ be no – at work, at home with my wife, with my kids and with our neighbours – and trust the future to our Father who loves us and has a plan to prosper us. I know I’ve got a way to go and I hope others will call me out when I don’t get it right. “Anything else,” Jesus says, “is from the evil one!”
I’ll finish this morning with the Message translation of Jesus’ words in v48
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Father, as we read the Sermon on the Mount again we are struck by just how much room there is for us to grow. Today we recognise that we don’t always speak openly and plainly for fear what reaction we might get. Help us to simply let our ‘yes’ be yes and our ‘no’ be no. Do a work in our hearts Lord and do a work in our mouths, help us to grow up and mature in you. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 5:33-48
“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.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”