33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one (Matthew 5:33–37, NKJV).”
Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are people of integrity. They keep their word. The Jews had invented ingenious ways to circumvent honesty while still claiming to be honest. They thought they could swear by the temple and free themselves from their pledge. But, they said an oath made by the temple’s gold obliged one to keep it (Matt. 23:16). Jesus said they were blind fools for making such false oaths (Matt. 26:17, 18-22). It is intriguing and pertinent that today’s passage (that emphasizes the integrity of keeping one’s word) immediately follows Christ’s declaration of the sanctity of marriage (Matt. 5:31-32). The marriage vow is for life (“until death we do part”), and yet too many break their vow and think they are freed from their obligation made to and before God (Matt. 19:6; Rom. 7:2-3). The Christian’s word is trustworthy and dependable in all matters. Playing word games to evade the truth and our moral responsibility makes us no different from the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). Let your word be your bond. People notice, and so does the Lord (Matt. 5:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:12; Ps. 15:4).
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33–37, NKJV)
Jesus teaches one’s honesty should be so ironclad that his word is sufficient to settle any matter. “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). Swearing an oath becomes superfluous to the one whose constant code is the integrity of truth (Matt. 5:33-36). When someone must try to convince you they are telling you “the honest truth,” something is “rotten in Denmark.” “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). A good dose of honesty improves every relationship in your life. Be trustworthy and remember; others know your honesty by your words and the life you live.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25, NKJV)
In this familiar Bible verse, a reason to be honest with one another is given in it, with another reason given just prior to it. “Therefore” draws our attention to what was just said, namely, that we have “put on the new man which is created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). When we heard the gospel and “learned Christ,” we were taught to put off the old person of corruption and “deceitful lusts,” and to be “renewed” in the spirit of our mind (Eph. 4:20-23). We choose to be honest and to stop being deceitful. Honesty is a choice of faith. Secondly, we tell the truth because we are members of each other in the body of Christ (v. 25). The hand does not lie to the arm; the ear does not lie to the eye. Neither are Christians to lie to one another. As members of the body of Christ (His church), we are connected to each other – “members of one another” (Rom. 12:5). Christ (our head) knows when we do not speak the truth, so we ought not to try to deceive one another. Honesty is a choice we make because we think of others as better and more important than ourselves. Finally, be sure you do not lie to yourself. Deceiving yourself that lying is acceptable hardens your heart against truth and leads to eternal death (Rev. 21:8).
“It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer; But when he has gone his way, then he boasts. (Proverbs 20:14, NKJV)
Honesty and equity should define our financial transactions. We certainly recognize a difference between getting the best deal possible when purchasing an item, and greedily taking advantage of the seller. (The same can be said for the seller, who is tempted to use uneven scales to gain dishonest profit, Proverbs 11:1). Today’s verse suggests several of the pitfalls to avoid when transacting business from the buyer’s point of view. First, we must be honest in purchasing from others (Eph. 4:25). Whether it is giving an honest day’s work for the wage we receive, purchasing products, or paying for services rendered – we must be guided by honesty (even when others are not, Matt. 7:12). Secondly, we must guard against greed. Greed can easily enter the buyer’s (and the seller’s) mind. The desire to get more than a fair exchange for goods and services reflects a love for money (1 Tim. 6:9-10). The love of money is the root of dishonest transactions. Greed tempts people to pervert justice for the sake of material advancement (Deut. 16:19). Thirdly, today’s proverb warns us against pride. Boasting in getting away with an unjust transaction is particularly ugly. Honesty, contentment, and humility should inform and guide all our financial transactions, and are counterweights to the sins of dishonesty, greed, and pride.
20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us—21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (2 Corinthians 8:20–21, NKJV)
A fiduciary is “an individual in whom another has placed the utmost trust and confidence to manage and protect property or money. The relationship wherein one person has an obligation to act for another’s benefit” (https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fiduciary). A fiduciary avoids “self-dealing” and “conflicts of interests.” In today’s passage, Paul was ready and willing to travel to Jerusalem with the men chosen by the churches of Macedonia and Achaia to deliver their benevolent gifts to the needy Christians there (2 Cor. 8:16-19; Rom. 15:25-26). Paul was profoundly committed to avoiding every possibility of blame concerning his part in administering these funds for the churches. He went above and beyond what was expected to provide “honorable things” in the sight of the Lord and in the sight of men. He did what he could to avoid being accused of dishonesty concerning these charitable gifts of money from the churches. Like Paul, when we administer the affairs of others we must be honest and take precautions to guard against the slightest hint of impropriety. Honest people take honorable steps to insure the welfare of the charge committed to their trust. By doing so we keep a good conscience, we guard our integrity, and we maintain a godly influence (Heb. 13:18; 1 Pet. 2:12).
1 You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. (Exodus 23:1–2, NKJV)
Israel was strictly charged not to 1) Spread falsehoods, 2) Support unrighteous witnesses, 3) Join others in committing evil, and 4) Affirm what is false and influence others to pervert justice. Honest people continue to earnestly avoid speaking and promoting falsehoods against others. So, shouldn’t we be just as concerned with not advancing falsehoods about God? Yet, untold millions of otherwise honest people see no problem with accepting and spreading false teachings as if they belong to God. By affirming doctrinal error as truth, they influence many others to twist the truth. False teaching in the name of God is a sin of injustice against God. We are sure this does not go unnoticed by the Almighty (Matt. 7:21-23). Before you assign a doctrine and a practice to “the will of God” you must be sure His word supports it (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Examine the Scriptures to see if what you or others are saying about God and His will is true (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1, 6). Accept no counterfeit gospels. They are false reports that bring souls under divine condemnation (Gal. 1:6-10).
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19, NKJV)
Jesus continues to discuss the fact that sin proceeds from the heart by taking note of the sins of “thefts” and “false witness.” The first word discusses stealing material property, while the second describes false testimony that steals a person’s good name. Thievery takes any number of forms, including pilfering, extortion, shoplifting, robbery and pillage (Titus 2:10; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Nahum 3:1). An honest heart refuses to take that which does not belong to it. And, it is precisely such honesty of heart that refuses to tell a lie about another person. Lies not only cover up for one’s evil motives and actions, they do so at the expense of others. The “lying tongue” and “a false witness who speaks lies” are abominations to God (Proverbs 6:17-19). False witnesses led to the murder of Jesus and Stephen (Matthew 26:59-61; Acts 6:13-14). Stealing and lying takes advantage of others. Loving our neighbors and treating them like we want to be treated helps us treat others with integrity and decency. Respecting the rights and property of others is a hedge against these sins of dishonesty.
33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37, NKJV)
Jesus knows there are people who think what they say is only binding when they give their word with an oath. Without it, they feel at ease to break their word (see Matthew 23:16-22 for examples of this). Such people still exist. Honesty holds little value to them, so they break their word easily and repeatedly. Apparently, they think by emphasizing or exaggerating their honesty they increase their integrity and credibility. So, they swear by God, by heaven, by earth, and by many other things. They assure you they are telling you the truth as they say, “I swear…” For Christians, a simple “yes” or “no” is enough to establish the truthfulness of our words. Jesus said, “more than these is from the evil one.” Be the person whose integrity of heart means your word is your bond. Then, when you speak, others never need to wonder whether you are telling them the truth. (Revised, Sword Tips #320)
“In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” (Psalm 15:4, NKJV)
The sweet psalmist of Israel is in the middle of answering the question he posed in the first verse of Psalm 15: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” David draws our attention to the person who makes a pledge and keeps it even when, by doing so, it hurts him instead of benefits him. God accepts into His presence the person who measures honesty as a mark of integrity and personal honor. Truth is sacred to this person. This person does not pledge himself to honesty only if it results in a personal advantage. Are you such a person? How important is keeping your word to you? For Christians, our word is our bond (Ephesians 4:25). We keep our word, even if it disadvantages us to do so. The person who loves truth and fears God more than personal advantage dwells with God. Pledging our word and then breaking it because it puts us out, displays a lack of integrity that does not go unnoticed by God.
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; (Psalm 15:1, 4, NKJV)
There was a time when it was said, “a man’s word is his bond.” This still holds true for the righteous person who dwells in the presence of the Holy One. Even when he discovers that to which he gave his word damages him in some way, he continues to keep his word. The honor of fulfilling one’s word is a matter of personal integrity before God and before men. The honesty of our words does not depend on whether they help us or harm us, but upon the character of our heart. God, who knows our hearts, honors honest-hearted people with the joys of His presence.