Series: Student Ministry: The Sermon on the Mount

Honesty is not that much fun, it doesn’t add viewers to your television shows, it doesn’t attract people to your business, and it’s just not that interesting. Someday, when your car is broken down and you can’t fix it then you’re not going to want interesting. When everything is going crazy in your life, you don’t want interesting. What do you want in those times? You want truth and truthfulness. You’re not going to want to go shopping for a car someday and be lied to about the condition of a car.

I was once told a story about repackaged hamburger meat that is quite a tale about honesty. My football coach was talking to me once about deception. He had worked at a grocery store as a teenager and in his first week in the meat department, he was tossing the old meat into the garbage can when he was stopped by his boss. His boss said, “You’re wasting a lot of money.” The response, “it’s past the date” wasn’t acceptable. He was told to take the brown hamburger meat in the packages, before the date ran out on the package, and mix it with new meat. Both together were to be run through the grinder keeping both looking red and fresh. That way the old meat would be able to be sold. Did they sell any meat that was brown? No. It all looked fresh. Did they sell any meat that had old labels on it? No, it certainly looked fresh on the tag as well. Did they sell any meat that was beyond the time it should have been sold? Yes, they did. I don’t want their hamburger meat.

A gas station in Harrison, where I grew up, oftentimes mixed water with the gasoline. People didn’t go there very often after he got into trouble. Why? People didn’t like being lied to.

Honesty may not be very much fun, but honesty is actually what we want from other people. It is also what God demands of us. We are to be people of truth.

Read Matthew 5:33-37

We Are To Be People of Truth

Over the past few weeks, we have seen Jesus correcting the view of the Law that was taught in His day. We have seen that murder meant more than murder and that adultery meant more than adultery. Now we are going to see that the exceptions that the Pharisees had been teaching, in order to allow deceit, was horribly wrong.

God Has Always Desired Honesty (Matthew 5:33)


Here Jesus has condensed Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2, and Deuteronomy 5:11. And much of the content here has to do with Exodus 20:16 as well. So you have here, Jesus, explaining the laws on oaths and truthfulness. Irreverent oaths, misuse of the Lord’s name, and lying are all condensed into this short paragraph. The people had found out how to break all three in one fail swoop and Jesus pointed out to them the sinfulness of such actions by again pointing to the original intent and true meaning of the command not to lie and not to take the Lord’s name in vain.

The method for committing lying and blaspheming at the same time seems quite strange to us. D.A. Carson actually explains the relationship much better than I could, so I’ll quote him here.

“A sophisticated casuistry judged how binding an oath really was by examining how closely it was related to Yahweh’s name. Incredible distinctions proliferate under such an approach. Swearing by heaven and earth was not binding, nor was swearing by Jerusalem, thou swearing toward Jerusalem was. That an entire Mishnaic tract (M. Shebuoth) is given to the subject (cf. also M Sanhedrin 3.2; Tosephta Nedarim 1; SBK, 1:321-36) shows that such distinctions became important and were widely discussed.”- Carson, D.A., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with The New International Version: Matthew, Chapters 1 Through 12. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1995. P. 153

Though this has some similarities with crossing your fingers while knowingly telling a lie it is much more complicated. The closeness the relationship to Yahweh’s name determined the truthfulness of the statement. To this Jesus says, “No”.

It causes us to stop and consider the things that happen today. How often do you hear people lie and say, “I swear” or “I swear to God”? Only to have knowingly told a lie.

The truth is that honesty is lacking today. When I turn on the television I have politicians lying to me and News organizations lying to me about what they are lying about. I look around and see that people didn’t get ahead in their jobs by being honest, but oftentimes by lying. People are getting good grades in class at times because they are cheating and it all seems to get a pass.

To be dishonest is to break God’s command. There is no free pass for lying. Then, to make matters worse these people were invoking the Lord in a tale that they knew was false. But how many of us have been guilty of doing the same? How many of us have taken the Lord’s name in vain in attempt to convince someone that what we are saying is true? How many of us when asked “swear to God?” have gone ahead and lied about something? How many of us have been guilty of both lying and taking the Lord’s name in vain in one fail swoop? How many of us are guilty of lying and taking His name in vain? This always been the meaning of God’s command.

We Are To Be People Of Truth

The Earth Is The Lord’s, Be Honest In It (Matthew 5:34-36)


Oath taking was obviously okay in Jesus’s mind or else He would not have spoken under an oath later in this book in Matthew 26:23. Paul invoked God as His witness in Romans 1:9. God Himself takes an oath in Hebrews 6:17. Oath taking itself is not the problem. The problem is the deceptive oath taking that the Israelites were practicing in Jesus’s day.

It didn’t matter where the oath was made, or how close they believe that it was to Yahweh. Again, this was a deception that was much more complicated that crossing your fingers behind your back while knowingly telling a lie, but it was a similar idea. The closer the oath was to Yahweh the more truthful it needed to be, but Jesus rejects this idea. It doesn’t matter if your oath is by heaven, earth, Jerusalem and It doesn’t even matter that you are making the oath on your own head. God owns it all. As Jesus says here, you cannot even change the color of your hair. He owns all things.

Be honest. That is what we are seeing here. Be honest. Lying and deception are breaking God’s command. No matter the tricks that we come up with to be deceitful, no matter what they are. It is lying and it is deceit. And this is the Lord’s Earth, be honest in it.

Let Your Honest Character Be Your “Oath” (Matthew 5:37)


There are a few different translations of the beginning of this verse. It seems to me that older translations are more accurate here. We read let our “yes yes” and our “no no”. And that anything beyond this is something that is evil.

The idea here is simple. We are to be honest people. Those around us should be confident in our honesty. In life our yes means yes and our no means no.

You probably understand this more than you realize. Do you have friends that you trust and others that you do not? When those that you trust say “yes” or “no” or anything else you don’t question it. There is no need to look at that person and say, “do you promise?” because their word is trustworthy. You also know people that tell you something and you either don’t believe it or always ask them to make some sort of oath.

Jesus is telling us to be honest. Be a person that people trust because your word is true. Again, we are to be people of truth.

There is a problem here though. How many of you have gone without lying in your life? How many of you have lied to your parents this week? What about to a teacher who said you were talking and then you said, “No I wasn’t!” even though you obviously were.

Let Your Failure Drive You To Jesus


Remember the three uses of the Law that we’ve discussed every week for the last month. The first is to curb sin in the world. The second is as a mirror that reveals our sin. The third is to reveal to us the behavior that pleases God. We have talked much about the first and third tonight. Here we need to talk about the second use of the Law.

Our sin is revealed to us in this telling of the Law, for how many of us have fallen short? How many of us have lied recently? How many of us have lied ever? How many of us have fallen short of God’s standard?

The answer to that, and what is revealed to us in the Law is that we have all fallen short of God’s standard. We have rebelled and broken God’s Command. We are sinners who deserve God’s wrath and justice.

Praise be to God that He made a way for us to be made right with Him. God the Son came to Earth and died on a cross, paying the punishment for our sins. We rebelled against God and He paid the price for our sin. He rose from the dead three days later. Jesus made a way for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be brought into God’s family.

Forgiveness is found in Christ. Trust the Savior. Turn from ruling your own life and trust the Savior. If you have never trusted in Christ, you can find peace with God through the work of Christ.


R. Dwain Minor