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.
Of all the serious and difficult things Jesus taught, this passage may not strike us as ranking very high on the list. It’s not as startling as do not lust. It’s not as surprising as love your enemies. It’s not as memorable as love your neighbor as yourself. But in many ways, this wisdom about simply saying yes or no is just what our culture needs to hear today. We swim in a sea of outrageous rhetoric, outlandish claims and half-truths masquerading as gospel. Whether it’s called fake news or clickbait or just good old-fashioned lies, people will say anything to grab our attention or to bash the opposition. The more extreme, the better. The more insulting, the more interesting. The more shocking, the more views and comments and re-tweets. Those are the rules of engagement in social media, and all too often, they are applied in real life communication too.
Jesus told us not to mince our words or to exaggerate their meaning. You don’t need to swear by heaven or earth or (for some reason) your own head. Just say yes or no. You don’t need to make a big show of your opinions and your ideas. Just speak plainly. In other words, tell the truth, simple and honest, and that will be enough.
How refreshing it would be if politicians, advertisers and media personalities would just tell us clearly what we need to know, without the hype and innuendo. Maybe we could start believing what they tell us. We all know we can’t control what others say, but we can take ownership of our tongues. We can choose to speak truth. We can choose to say a few good, honest words instead of many, deceitful words. We can say yes or no, and leave it at that.
Gracious Lord, thank You for telling me the truth. Forgive me for all my useless, foolish, untrue words. Help me to speak clearly and honestly, all the time. I pray that my example of speaking the truth would draw others toward Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian