If you were to ask Christians what are the top things that piss God off you’d hear stuff like:
– Using the word piss
– Cigarette smoking
– Harry Potter books and/or movies
– Britney Spears’ Vegas act
Seldom will one hear, in the Christian’s list of what makes God irate, is not keeping one’s commitments. Here’s a great read on the sin of our ‘yes not being yes’ and our ‘no not being no.’ Enjoy.
Despite all the reasons we are tempted to go back on our commitments, we need to be dependable, reliable people. The trustworthiness of our words is important. Perhaps the most important area in life we need to take commitment seriously is in marriage, because divorce will always hurt its victims.
Sermon Text: Matthew 5:31-36
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”I would like to read to you from the Book of Matthew, Chapter 5; I am going to begin at Verse 31.
Let’s pray. God we pray that we might hear what we need to hear, that you might work in us by your spirit and may we respond to you with the obedience that comes through faith. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In courts we give testimony under oath. And the reason we do that is because it’s upping the stakes. When we give testimony under oath, what’s being required is that the court is telling us, “Look, we don’t know whether you lie in your day-to-day life or not, but here under these circumstances the truth is so important that there are consequences if you don’t tell the truth.” It’s important to tell the truth even to the point of having a penalty if we don’t. The truth is required. That is what oaths are all about. In Jesus’ day people took oaths as well, and one of the common things was to swear by things that were sacred. Now the religious leaders knew that it wasn’t a safe bet to swear by God, by the name of God, because they realized that God was so high, so lofty that if for some reason you didn’t fulfill what you vowed or didn’t tell the absolute truth that the consequences were enormous. So instead they kind of figured out how do we hedge our bets a little bit you know and we can still show that we are really serious, but not be in that much trouble.
And so take a look at what goes on in this passage beginning in Verse 34. Jesus comes up with a list. Don’t swear by heaven or by the earth or by Jerusalem or by your head. These were ways that people would hedge their bets and oaths. There is almost a descending quality of importance isn’t it? Heaven; well that’s where God is. Then the whole earth, and then just Jerusalem and then just my head. And so there was that sense that you could really show that you can really tell the truth this time, but not quite be under the gun as if you swore by God. Jesus rejects that whole way of thinking. Jesus says we shouldn’t need oaths to prove that this is the time that we are really going to fulfill our word or really tell the truth. In Verse 37 he says, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,” and your ‘No,’ be ‘ No’;anything else comes from the evil one.”
Our word should always be reliable. In a casual commitment we make, in our description of what happened in a meeting or happened at work or at home; all of these things should be as reliable in every day life as if we were in a courtroom and there are consequences. Our word should be reliable. We should uphold our commitments. But let’s face it, so often we don’t. We don’t keep our commitments and we don’t tell the truth. We say we will do one thing, but end up doing another. Now sometimes this is a deliberate act. Sometimes people are deliberately trying to get their way by manipulation. I have a friend of mine in Baton Rouge who is a banker and he says that currently it takes 40 pages of paperwork to do a transaction that 30 years ago would have only required eight pages. And the reason is because every term has to be defined, every spot of the agreement has to be signed and verified to prove that you know what you are doing, that you are making this commitment so that there is no way that you can wiggle out of it later. Because inevitably people try to change their commitments, even legal ones or try to challenge them if it’s not this explicit. So one of the reasons that people don’t uphold their word is because they really want to get their way no matter what. But I think more often we sometimes don’t keep our word because we are just disorganized and we are not thinking or caring deeply enough about how our actions affect other people.
Back in my Inner Varsity Christian fellowship days I used to send thank you letters out to people, but I would also send thank you notes to them; handwritten thank you notes. And the people who supported my ministry got a number of these thank you notes and this wasn’t just because I was appreciative of their support, it was because I had a habit of carrying postcards around with me when I went on campus to have appointments. And then if a student didn’t show up or came late I would sit there and write thank you notes. I wrote a lot of thank you notes. Students missed a lot of appointments. Now I know that has totally changed and every student that comes here makes all of their commitments, but when I – back in the old days when your staff member was a student people weren’t keeping their commitments and when I mentioned it to them; I can’t say confront, because I wasn’t really confronting them, I would mention it and it sometime seemed like they didn’t even care.
So sometimes we don’t keep these commitments because we are not taking seriously enough how our actions affect other people. I think this is a problem in the church today; this kind of unreliability. And we are unreliable for a number of reasons and I would like to think about them for just a minute.
Sometimes we say yes when we mean no. We don’t make ourselves clear or whatever and we make commitments that we don’t intend to keep. Sometimes we do that because it’s just easier than saying no. Have you ever been in that circumstance where somebody is putting some pressure on you and you can’t think of a graceful way of saying no to it, so you end up saying yes, okay I will do that, yeah. But then later you don’t do it. I am absolutely sure that’s a problem in this church.
The reason is yesterday I had to call somebody and apologize, that I hadn’t fulfilled the commitment that I had made to them. It wasn’t a person in this church. It was someone from outside who was here for an event and asked me to do something on behalf of some retirement homes. I couldn’t figure out a way to say no and I said yes and then I forgot to do it. It’s a problem and as I was preparing for this sermon I realized okay, I’ve got to apologize for this and make amends. So I made a phone call and it was embarrassing and that’s the way it is. So sometimes it’s because its easier than saying no. Sometimes though it’s because talk is cheap. We are talking and people are throwing things around and we say, “Oh yeah I will do that” and we don’t even think about it. We say yes and we forget about it just seconds later. Have you ever said, “Yeah I will pray for that” and then not prayed? Classic case. Sometimes I don’t even remember what I was supposed to be praying for.
Another reason is selfishness. We make the commitment thinking yeah I will do that, but then something better competes with it and all of a sudden we decide that even though I have already made this commitment, I am going to do this because this is going to be more fun, this serves me better and so we let people down. Every time we don’t keep a commitment, every time we don’t tell the truth, someone is wasting their time because we don’t show up or because we are late, some group can’t work as well because we aren’t there to contribute our gifts as we committed ourselves to do and somebody is making a bad decision because we didn’t give them the truth to work with. It’s important that our yes be yes and our no be no. The trustworthiness of our words is important. We need to be dependable, reliable people. We need to keep our commitments and what Jesus said, “Anything less or anything more in having to swear or take over is from the evil one.”
Read more: CentralPC.org
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