Day 10

Tell the Truth

from the The Sermon on the Mount reading plan


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

BY Guest Writer

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.

Post Comments (44)

44 thoughts on "Tell the Truth"

  1. Becky says:

    This has prompted me to take a few moments and consider if I have recently given my word to anyone regarding a personal commitment or obligation. I don’t think I have, but that doesn’t make me innocent. I will take a few moments and pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal any promises I’ve made that I have not kept and to grant what is needed to follow through.

  2. Bre B says:

    God brought some good reminders to my heart while I was reading this. I am something who will say yes far to quickly and at times if the person isn’t super important to me I become unreliable. Which is so unfair to the friend. It’s a bad habit I’ve developed.
    Also in a world where people commit and then cancel last minute, (I know how frustrating this is as an event planner through church) I pray people who see me more as reliable and true to my word!

    1. Heather says:

      I never thought of this verse as a platform to truly care and love others…or rather how NOT guarding our yes and no can be such a disservice to people. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Bevvie Byrom says:

    Love this

  4. Anita says:

    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.

    1. Becky says:

      This is SO true. Many times I say those things consciously hoping the person won’t actually take me up on it. I need to be more careful here also.

  5. Kay says:

    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!

  6. Shelby says:

    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.

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      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

  7. marci waters says:

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

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