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Lord of the Lips

Abraham Lincoln famously said, "It is true that you can fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Allow me to add to Lincoln's famous quote: "You can't fool God any of the time." Some in Jesus' day apparently believed they could fool God and other people by use of some elaborate verbal and religious gymnastics. They made multiple oaths and vows to God but did not carry them out. Matthew 5:33-37 lets us in on their slick religious maneuvers' - 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." The teaching and practice Jesus aimed to correct here was not Moses' in the Old Testament, but a perversion of it. A number of Old Testament passages allowed for the taking of oaths and vows — Deuteronomy 6:13; 23:21-23; Leviticus 19:11; Numbers 30:2 are all good examples. Swearing and taking of oaths were allowed in the Old Testament but it was serious business! To do so was to enter into a binding contract, not just with another person, but also with God Himself! The somber tone of the instructions were not meant to prevent solemn oaths and vows — only from making them frivolously and flippantly with no intent to keep the promise. By Jesus' time religious men had developed an elaborate scheme of oaths that included swearing by heaven, the earth, Jerusalem, and their heads! But they left themselves an out, so they thought. Their theory was that so long as they didn't actually include God's name in the oath, they could opt out of keeping it! It was a kind of "oath-lite" — more swearing, less service; appearing to be consecrated without the actual commitment. The result — the scribes and Pharisees had greatly diminished the reverence/respect Moses' law attached to the name of God and to the solemn and binding nature of oaths taken in His name. (Matthew 23:16-22 reveals Jesus didn't buy it!)

We, too, live in a world awash in lies and broken promises. An irreverent world saturated with swearing but not with respect for the sacred. A world where the name of God and His Son are often abused. As in "TGIF" [thank God its's Friday]; "OMG [oh my God] (used for truly pathetic reasons, even by some church members); "By God" or "I God"; "I swear"; "I swear to God"; "I swear on a stack of Bibles"; "I swear on my mother's grave"; "It's the God's truth"; "Jesus Christ" (used as an expletive); and last but far from least, the blasphemous practice of people who use God's holy name to "damn" some thing or person. Jesus is clear where all this trashing of God's name originates — it is from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37). The devil is behind all this talk that drags down the name of God. Don't use devil-talk to speak about God! If Jesus is truly Lord of your life, He will also be Lord of your lips. Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ