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. Kristi says:

    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!

    1. Cassie Kendall says:

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

  2. Ellen says:

    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.

    1. Lehua K. says:

      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).

    2. Cecilia says:

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

  3. Caroline says:

    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

  4. Eriana says:

    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.

  5. Bridget says:

    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??

    1. CJ says:

      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!

    2. Kristi says:

      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.

  6. Heather says:

    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?

    1. churchmouse says:

      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!

    2. Karen From Virginia says:

      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.

  7. Tochi Heredia says:

    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.

  8. Rebekah DeLibro says:

    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.

    1. aprilinsydney says:

      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.

      1. Rebekah DeLibro says:

        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.

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