The Sermon on the Mount: Day 10

Tell the Truth

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Today's Text: Matthew 5:33-37, Exodus 20:7, Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, Matthew 26:62-64, James 5:12

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:33-37, Exodus 20:7, Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, Matthew 26:62-64, James 5:12

I should be walking around with a needle in my eye. Maybe you should too.

That visual might make us cringe, but a touch of squeamishness is just what we need to really hear Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 5:33-37. Sandwiched in the middle of hard-to-digest teachings on divorce and loving our enemies, Jesus calls out our long track record of broken promises.

“Cross my heart. Hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye.” Remember saying that as a kid? As we vowed to be BFFs with our playmates or to tell the truth in a given situation, we may have crossed our hearts with our little fingers, but we didn’t really hope to die. We certainly didn’t expect someone to stick a needle in our eye if the promise was forgotten or broken.

With all of the conviction our hearts could muster, we made a vow we couldn’t keep. It’s a habit we likely haven’t grown out of entirely, and one that is not new to Christ’s followers. The practical takeaway of this mini-sermon on vows is simple, though certainly not easy. I can’t say it better than Christ, so I won’t attempt to.

“But let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.”
- Matthew 5:37

In a world where words are cheap and promises are disposable, we are called to be promise keepers, a people who faithfully follow through. If we say we will do something, we ought to show up and do it. If we aren’t sure we can, we should ask the Holy Spirit to help us decline or stay quiet.

There are a zillion practical applications of this truth, but just using these words as a guide to manage our calendars and commitments is the lower-hanging, easy-to-pick fruit. Let’s look up and see the gospel.

The Old Testament is packed with followers who made dramatic vows to the Lord:

  • Jacob vowed to worship Yahweh and tithe a tenth of his belongings if God would meet his physical needs (Genesis 28:20-22).
  • Samson’s parents made a vow on his behalf, promising to never cut his hair (Judges 13:5).
  • Hannah vowed to send her firstborn son to live in the temple if God would give her the baby she longed for (1 Samuel 1:10-11).
  • Jonah attempted to use a vow to pry open the mouth of the huge fish that swallowed him (Jonah 2:9).
  • David vowed not to sleep until he built a temple for the ark of the covenant (Psalm 132:2-5).

The people on this list kept their promises imperfectly or not at all, just like we do. They may have followed through on one specific vow, but each of them failed at keeping their promise to worship God alone and to obey Him perfectly. We’ve followed suit by promising to love, serve, worship, and obey out of one corner of our mouths, while sinning out of the other corner. But we should not get used to this. Breaking promises to God, and to others, should always make us squirm. Even more, it should cause us to repent and look to Jesus.

Our imperfections highlight and point to Christ’s perfection. He is the ultimate and only promise keeper. Despite our trail of broken promises, God has not reneged on His promise to save us and free us from sin, to bring us back into relationship with Him. This is the gospel, isn’t it?

We can say what we mean and mean what we say because we bear His image. More importantly we can be constantly buoyed by the hope that God will keep every promise He’s ever made to us.

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Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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  • It’s so very easy to say, “Just call me”, “let me know,” and “any way I can help”, but when the call comes it’s way too often a matter of convenience as to whether I comply with the request. As I grow into a more mature Christian, I have learned to hold off, pray, then give an answer. God is the door opener, taking the step to pray before stepping forward has made my it clearer for me to say “yes” or “no” with confidence.

  • The wonderful photo accompanying this lesson appeared in my IG feed at a moment when I most needed affirmation. I had just said no to taking on a major leadership role at my church. I explained to my pastor (who was very accepting of my no) that I felt making another commitment to the church would actually take away from my time to spend in relationship with God. I received several other signs that I had made the right choice, too! I am reminded of the lyrics of a sweet song that was recorded by the Cox Family and Alison Krauss years ago, “Just remember, I’m a human, and humans forget. So remind me, remind me, dear Lord.” Praise God!

  • I’ve always thought of our word being the only thing that you can be accountable for. I’ve kept my promises as far as I can remember except the time my dad pressured me into the statement “it’ll be me, you and your sister until the end, not your mother.” I always said ‘okay’ because I didn’t want him mad at me. Now today, I don’t have a relationship with my dad and sister; when my dad calls for my birthday (only time we speak) he always brings that up followed by a guilt trip. That always did not sit well with me.

    I always wanted to find someone completely opposite of my dad. I learned a great work ethic from my dad but other than that, that was it. He was a great provider for my family. I learned love from my mom’s parents and they instilled the grace of God in me.

    Due to broken relationships with my parents; does that mean I sin in regards to “honor thy father and mother?” I respect them but have a platonic love for them out of respect of bringing me into this world but they don’t play a role in my life.

    • She Reads Truth

      Hi Shelby, thank you so much for being willing to share a bit of your story with us. It can definitely be a hard thing to honor our earthly fathers and mothers. If you haven’t before, we would encourage you to reach out and discuss these questions with a trusted pastor or counselor in your local community. Being able to process our struggles like these in person with other believers can help so much! So glad to have you here. – Abby, The SRT Team

  • marci waters

    yes; this is my reminder of not to be tossed around like the waves – ephesians 4:14

  • Just wanted to say that I found the Message (MSG) translation of these verses to be really helpful and informative today! Definitely check it out if you haven’t yet!

    • Cassie Kendall

      I love the Message! I think it brings out the beauty of the scriptures and gives additional meaning for me!

  • I think I struggle with the opposite end of this: when people break their promises to me, I judge them severely for it, because giving your word is a big deal. But while that’s true, I must remember that ultimately no one is perfect except God. I can rejoice that He always fulfills His promises, and gives grace to me when I don’t fulfill my word… And then I can be gracious with others who don’t keep theirs either.

    • Lehua K.

      I struggle with this too – I can be very harsh when others are not accountable and break promises/their word. But I am no different. Thanks for the reminder of grace God has for us, and how we can follow in His example toward others (and even ourselves).

    • Cecilia

      Such a great observation, I struggle too. Thanks for this!

  • yes yes yes! A verse that is taken so lightly by so many, including me at times.
    Lord, let me yes be yes. And Lord, thank you that you always keep your promises and your promises are always yes and amen in Jesus Christ
    http://www.in-due-time.com

  • Such a simple command and one of the easiest to break. Especially in our go go go, busybody lifestyle today where we want to make our own plans (and expect God to back them), say yes to everything, and people please our way through many situations. At least, I’m speaking for myself if no one else. Sometimes I end up being much less reliable, much less a woman of my word, than I want to be. Sometimes I bring God’s name into the situation when I’m pursuing my own agenda. Lord, may my word be founded on Your goodness, intentionality, and loyalty.

  • When reading Exodus 20:7, I thought of the very common use of the Lord’s name in the expression “oh my God”. It makes me squirm when I hear that. Or when people use Jesus’ name or say “for Christ sakes”. I have even heard Christians say these things. Thoughts??

    • CJ

      I really struggle with this. Growing up I constantly heard “Jesus Christ!” So it’s ingrained in my flesh. I am trying to break this!

    • Kristi

      I’m with you 100%, Bridget. This is something God convicted me of last year when I began to spend more time with Him and put Him first in my life. It wasn’t the easiest habit to break, but with His help and grace, I have done it. Studying God’s word closely for the past year and a half has helped me to understand that His name is holy and is not to be used lightly or irreverently. Just because something has become normalized in our culture doesn’t make it right for Christians.

  • Thought-on the flip side when someone says ” No” are we respectful and honor that No or do we try to turn it into a Yes?

    • churchmouse

      True. And when we do, we are being manipulative. The same with asking a question – do we accept the person’s answer or do we repeatedly ask the question (in various ways) to pressure them to say what we wanted to hear in the first place? Manipulation… Is not nice!

    • Karen From Virginia

      Good point. Giving my opinion or sharing what I hoped for isn’t bad. It can be just honest. But if my heart wants to control and persuade than I’m being manipulative and disrespectful. Even when we see someone doing wrong, we can share truth but ultimately God gives them the right to choose their path. I think we please God when we respect them and let God take care of the rest.

  • Tochi Heredia

    When it comes to other people, I’ve always been very straightforward and transparent. Maybe too much.
    Yet I can help but fidget uncomfortably in my chair reading this today. I haven’t always been transparent with the One who truly knows my heart inside and out. I have made huge vows to Him, only to chicken out of them when things got too difficult.

    Father, forgive me from breaking my promises to You, help me to be wise if and when I make a vow to You, and give me strength and endurance to keep it. Thank you for being the perfect Promise Keeper.

  • Rebekah DeLibro

    Wow, Matthew 5:37 puts it in perspective right? Growing up my parents stressed that breaking promises God was a sin and it stuck with me. They both were married before and couldn’t stress to me enough that I needed to pray for the right spouse. Promises to God were to be carried out and done in a timely manner. Praying for my husband did work and I’m a so grateful that I had parents to pray for that for me as well. I feel like when I pray now I’m always leaving it up to God and say “let your will be done” that is what we are supposed to do, right? Maybe God wants me to make more promises to Him and see them through. That scares me, I will admit. Failure scares me and so I don’t put myself out there. I do what I know, what is easier most times. I think God want us to put ourselves out there, because he has good things waiting for us to discover. Praying for more promise making and keeping for us all in this community.

    • aprilinsydney

      Thank you for this, especially the bit about putting ourselves out there. Like you, I stick to what I know and pray “God’s will be done”, without making any bold steps.

      • Rebekah DeLibro

        Thank you! I think we are all struggling with being bold for God, in this day but I hope praying for this will help me accomplish it.

  • Heavenly Father, please transform my people pleasing tendencies into God pleasing tendencies. In Jesus’ name I pray amen.

  • Never break vows made to God and telling the truth even when it hurts and exposes…these words spoke to me as divine instructions for my own life today as I read the scriptures and text. Thank You Lord for this. Exodus 20:7, speaks to us about using The Lord’s name in vain. Lord I repent. I repent of the many times I said You said “this” or told me to do “that”, how I attached Your name to my plans and called it, Your Will. How I made decisions based on my emotions and said it was The Spirit of The Lord, when in actually, it was never You, it was me all along. Lord I ask for forgiveness and I thank You Lord for extending grace and mercy to me, as You teach me by Your Spirit to walk fully in Your ways in holiness and righteousness. Thank You Lord for forgiving me, I receive divine help from You in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  • Karen From Virginia

    I’m learning. This was a good reminder. Lord Jesus,I want to be a woman whose word mean something, that I do not give into pressure of others either for their approval or so I can boast. Instead I want my ass to be because you, Lord have told me yes. And I want my no to be because you put the boundary there, Lord. Forgive me, Lord, when my words have been wasted, when my words I’ve been used wrongly, when my words were not true instead because I was afraid I was hiding behind my words. Lord I want to be a woman who fears the Lord and not one who fears man. Show me my heart so I can walk humbly and integrity. Amen.

    • Karen, that was one of the most well placed typos I have ever seen lol!!! Your prayer not only transformed my heart, but also gave it a light chuckle. Thank you!

      • Ashley

        Amen Karen, I am a little extra thankful for God’s grace today. I pray the same prayer for all the women in the SRT community. Your typo, as Lana said, was quite well placed and in turn made me laugh a little this morning too lol.

  • PursuedByHim

    “Our imperfections highlight and point to Christ’s perfection. He is the ultimate and only promise keeper. ”

    He is the only promise keeper. I love that He loves us that much! I mess up frequently with what I say, because my brain always has an opinion about everything…usually a very strong opinion. I am so thankful that Jesus keeps forgiving me and keeps His promise to do so. It is an example I cannot attain here on this earth, but I must strive for minute by minute.

    Holy Spirit, please help me today and every day. Watch over my words and thoughts that I may be a witness to your love and generous forgiveness and not a witness to my opinions.

    • Anna

      “I may be a witness to your love and generous forgiveness and not a witness to my opinions.” Thank you for these words! That spoke exactly what I too am needing & wanting. I struggle with making little decisions throughout the day but in my head I have no problem making and holding fast to my opinions of others. I know this will always be something I’m working towards, seeing others in Gods love & not in my own opinions. I love knowing there is no limit to His forgiveness & love for me. Thanks for reminding me of all this today.

  • I needed this today! So very much so! I struggle so much with what I want to do versus what will actually happen! I did the Lysa Terkursts study “your best yes.” And loved it made “No’s” a lot easier so I could. Be realistic with my “yes’s” so if you need more reading, I would check that out!

    • Mandy Sorge

      Thanks for the recommendation!! I need help with my constant ‘yes’ and I look forward to checking out that study!

  • churchmouse

    “Actions speak louder than words.” How many times have I admonished my children, and myself, to discern the character of a person with that statement? Yet the Scriptures and devotion today remind me to weigh even the words that are said. It’s not enough to follow through – it’s being thoughtful about the initial words I use. “Think before you speak.” Oh yes, that’s another of my mantras. Sigh. I fail in both. How comforting it is to know that God means what He says, says what He means and always delivers. It’s what draws me back to His Word each day and gives me strength and encouragement to try to do the same. Every Word He speaks is thoughtful and true. Every promise He makes is always fulfilled . And that gives me hope for today and all eternity. Help me Lord to have my brain in gear before my lips move and may my hands and my feet do what my mouth says. May they all be pleasing to You. Amen.

    • PursuedByHim

      “May they all be pleasing to You.” Yes! Amen!

    • Brenda

      Great thoughts, churchmouse. And in this world of “maybe”, I’m praying too that when someone says “Yes” they follow through on their “yes “and when they want to say “No” they say it instead of maybe. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Love that! No more maybes. I’ve witnessed first hand too many times the outcome with my daughter’s friends saying maybe we can go to a movie, maybe we can go to dinner, just say “No ” and let her move on. When someone says maybe we know it means NO! Just be honest and actions do speak louder than words!And “let your “Yes” mean “Yes and your “No”mean “No”. How refreshing!

  • I agree Alison. I too have broken promises to Him and others. Better to not say anything than to make a promise without keeping it. Lord, please help me to abstain from promising unless you have made it clear and will help me see it through. Thank you for forgiving me for doing just these things.

  • Alison MacFarland

    This one really hit hard. I’m so careless with my words and promises. I should be better for Him, as He is more important than broken promises

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