Sermon on the Mount – Keeping Your Word
March 27, 2011
Matthew 5:33-37 “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.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath 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. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Once again, we find Jesus focusing on another area where the Pharisees presented an outward appearance of righteousness but inwardly they were misled and misguided. Jesus confronts the fact that the Pharisees were using oaths to present themselves as holy or above others. One of the reasons Jesus was countering this is that the Pharisees of the day had a way of swearing that was an attempt to impress others with their sincerity and reliability in order to gain favor and acceptance. The problem here is that they attempted to add weight to the promises they made. It became a competition of sorts of who could swear on the greatest of things.
- The throne of God
- The earth
- One’s head
The greater problem is that in many cases the Pharisees had no intention of following through with their commitment. They were focused on the oath and not the action that was to follow. But Jesus counters with the thought that our word ought to be our bond. When we make a commitment, we must seek to fulfill that commitment because our word should matter.
What does your word mean? Do you keep your commitments and promises? An article in The Business Journal makes the following statement that is applicable to this discussion. “Keeping your word never goes out of style.” And if the business community recognizes the value of this truth how much more should we as believers keep our word.
The author of the article continues by saying that “Meeting commitments, exceeding expectations and customer satisfaction are all 21st century ways to say that keeping your word is not out of style. Unfortunately, I am very concerned, and more and more convinced, that we have raised a whole generation of businesspeople who believe that failing to meet a commitment is acceptable. Perhaps even a way of life. Perhaps even a business strategy.” (Bill Brooks, The Business Journal March 13, 2000)
The great philosopher Woody Allen may have been right when he said that “success is simply showing up.” Lots of people don’t show up at all – and if they do their ethics, honesty and commitment simply don’t.
Making false promises tends to be:
- Manipulative – We attempt to get others to do what we want by making promises we cannot keep or ever intended to keep. It becomes an issue of what I say and not what I do. It has been said of certain politicians that they often discuss topics and speak to what they would do when in fact they do very little to bring change. When one is manipulative they will say or do anything to get you to do what they want.
- Self-centered – We often make promises because we want to get someone off of our back or we want them to believe that we are more than we really are. Making oaths can be a self-centered exhibition of pride. But rather than swearing let your word be your bond.
- Disrespectful of others – By not keeping our promises or commitments we are in essence “dissing” or disrespecting others but God has called us to love others.
Most common promises:
- I promise I will do it tomorrow. How many times have we heard of a politician promising to do something if they are re-elected? My question is that, if you are in office, why don’t you do that now.
- I promise I will never tell anyone.
- I will call you. Or, I will pray for you.
- I will never do that again.
- I promise I will always love you.