Paul Harvey told a story that I remember my dad using in sermon illustrations as a child. Four teenage boys were late to school one morning because they were goofing off and having fun. They walked into their first period class with about 5 minutes left, and solemnly told the teacher that they were sorry they were late, and that they had stopped to change a flat tire. The teacher looked at them and smiled sympathetically, and said it was too bad they were late, because they had missed a test. However, she was willing to let them make it up. She asked the boys to go to the four corners of the room, and she handed them each a blank piece of paper. She told them the make up test consisted of one question, and if they got it right, they would pass the test. The teacher then asked the question – “Which tire was flat?”
Jesus commands us to be truthful. In Matthew 5:37, he says to let our yes be yes and our no be no. In the preceding verses, he has told the Pharisees to stop their complex system of swearing and making oaths, because they were time and time again finding loopholes to get out of them. For example, if you swore by Jerusalem, it was not binding, but if you swore towards Jerusalem, it was not binding. This was not based on any law God had made, but again, it was a loophole they had created for themselves to get out of keeping their word. They had a whole system that allowed and rewarded dishonesty.
We do this time and time again. We say that we’ll pray for someone, and we never intend on doing it. We say we’ll be there for a person, but when push comes to shove, other things are more important. We do what we can to sell ourselves as true Christians, but when faced with actually doing it, we get out of it by creating our own loophole.
Jesus is encouraging us at this point to live a life that we would not be ashamed of in any way, especially in our speech. Live a life so that if all the things you said and did were being written down, you wouldn’t have any problem with someone going back and reading it. Do you think that would drastically change your speech? Ephesians 4:25 tells us that we shouldn’t lie to each other, especially because we’re all in this world together, and we should work together for the good of the Kingdom, not against each other. Colossians 3:9 tells us not to lie to each other because when we became Christians, we put that lifestyle behind us.
Its also not enough just to tell the truth, we must be truthful in our actions as well. Our actions must match our language. Otherwise, we lack the integrity to back up the truth we speak. Nothing can be more powerful than when the world hears a Word of truth lived out in our lives. The words you speak are amplified by the life you live.
Ultimately, we walk in truth if we walk in the path of God. Every time God spoke it was truth. Everything Jesus said and did, it was truth. If we are made in his image, and we are to strive to live like Jesus, shouldn’t we do the same?
Sometimes we let the urgent take the place of the important. “yes I know I said I’d do this, but something came up. ” Thanks be to God for His grace when this happens.
I know exactly what you mean. We don’t want others to be uncomfortable around us when we actually tell them “no”, or have them upset at us if we tell them no. Its easier to say yes. I wish i had a nickel for every time i’ve made the mistake of saying i’d pray for someone, or that I would help them, or other things like that…i could support 20 missionary teams!