20 September 2018

Welcome to Thursdays podcast. Our reading today is Matthew 5: 38-48.

Today we’ll focus on verse 37: ‘All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one…’


In September 2015 a scandal broke in the USA that would cause ripples around the world. The US Government accused the German carmaker VW of violating the Clean Air Act. It appeared that VW had developed software that allowed diesel cars to detect when they were being tested for nitrogen dioxide in laboratory conditions & therefore reduce their emissions accordingly to pass strict US laws. Scientists discovered that in real world driving, when the car’s computers didn’t detect any testing, the emissions readings were up to 40 times higher than allowed.

It turned out that VW had installed this software in 11 million cars worldwide and 500,000 in the USA.

VW’s stock price fell by a third in the days after the scandal broke. The CEO of Audi was arrested and many notables in VW’s parent group resigned.

VW agreed to spend $18 billion dollars to rectify the situation and pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the USA, being ordered to reveal the details of its ‘defeat device’. The court case revealed that VW scientists knew that their diesel engines would never pass strict US emission laws. They attempted to cover it and were caught.

As we journey though the Jesus Manifesto or Sermon on the Mount today, we arrive at a passage which is best described as a strong lesson from Jesus on the need for integrity. The sermon on the mount is a vision of a society – as John Stott says, a ‘new Society’ where on the attributes or bedrock of the Kingdom of God is trust and honesty.

The context of the passage is simple. Once again Jesus is tackling the Pharisees. It was common to ‘swear on oath’ or make promises. For example people sometimes say ‘on my mother’s life…’ – no one really knows what that means or how you qualify that. For Jesus the goal is integrity – the Pharisees on the other hand were tinkering with legal interpretations to allow people to make promises they probably had no way of keeping.

Integrity is hard. When you’re at work at there’s a strong culture, expectations to behave in a certain way: it’s sometimes tough to stand out from the crowd. I have a friend who told me that recently his company end of year review day went something like this: presentations from senior staff at lunch times in a fancy hotel in London. A boozy lunch and more light hearted activities. The evening was a boozy meal and then onto more unsavoury activities with the boss. He had a choice. Everyone wants to get in with the boss – does he a) say ‘I’m not going’ and face missing out on ‘getting with the boss’ or does be b) live out his faith and operate with integrity? He chose b. It can be the pressure of others’ expectations that can force us to become people we don’t want to be.

The Harvard Business Review once published an article on why integrity is so vital for a company to thrive. The article acknowledged that integrity is a choice we make every day – most often in the small things.

Interestingly Jesus doesn’t say too much about making oaths or promises – there’s a bigger picture at play: be honest. Honesty is powerful. It’s winsome. Jesus says simply ‘say yes or no…’ Don’t cook it.

One of the great things about having a child age 7 is they notice things. They point out our inconsistencies and our hypocrisy. This is both a blessing and a challenge. As we learned early in the week, if we are to be salt and light, one such way is to be people of integrity. To be people of purity.

One of the things I love about my Dad is that he always says his piece. It’s cost him promotions at work and positions in the church. Now I believe there are a time and a place. Michael Finnemore on the other hand does not. My Dad’s retired now but a few years ago I remember he told this story. A man at work sought him out. This man was desperate. He was in a bad way. In the middle of the staff canteen of this West Midlands factory this man poured out his heart. Why? He knew my Dad went to church, but more than that, he said he knew he was honest. He could trust him. That’s salt and light right there all wrapped up in a little bald Brummie.

Today, let’s be salt and light. Let’s live with the integrity Jesus calls us to.


Jesus we pray for this day that we may walk with you in truth, love and integrity.


READING: Matthew 5:33-48

‘Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the oaths 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 neighbour 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.