27 “You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery [Exodus 20:14]. 28 But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body go into hell.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago: Don’t make a false solemn pledge, but you should follow through on what you have pledged to the Lord [Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21]. 34 But I say to you that you must not pledge at all. You must not pledge by heaven, because it’s God’s throne. 35 You must not pledge by the earth, because it’s God’s footstool. You must not pledge by Jerusalem, because it’s the city of the great king. 36 And you must not pledge by your head, because you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.
We learn a lot about stronger relationships directly from Jesus. His Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5-7) offered much wisdom. It included “prophetic hyperbole,” by which Jesus taught the often-ignored truth that faithless hearts (not just bodies) deeply damage relationships. He also taught the importance of honesty in what lies behind our words as well as in the words themselves. Our integrity shouldn’t come and go (“I swear I mean it this time”)—it should be a given.
Lord God, you created me. You know more about how my mind works than I know myself. Help me grow to be a deeply faithful, trustworthy person. Amen.
I love the way Jesus always sees the whole picture, and tries to make us see it, too. In Matthew 5:37, he makes a simple statement. “Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Yes, without qualifying it. No, without making exceptions. Qualifications and exceptions come from the evil influence of the desire to protect ourselves and our own importance.
Short and simple, but in that statement are the building blocks of all good relationships, including our relationship with God. Honesty. Trust. Faithfulness.
There is one more block that contains all the others – Grace. If we don’t give grace, we are not able to forgive each other for failures big and small. If we aren’t being honest about ourselves, and truthful about our own failings, then we can’t be faithful to our biggest promises – to love God with all our hearts and minds and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Thinking of relationships of all kinds – family, friends, community, and my relationship to God, I see that my greatest successes have been when I simply said yes to those things that enabled me to honor the promise of loving God and loving others without qualification or exception. My greatest failures have been when I did not say no to putting myself first at the expense of others, not being honest about my failings, and not trusting God for what I really needed. In this simple declaration that we should not make empty pledges, Jesus shows us how to live our lives in a way that honors God and others. By saying yes to honesty, trust, faithfulness and grace, Jesus gave us a rule that will enable us to be in all kinds of relationships with others and find joy, community, and love in all of them.
Jesus, thank you for giving us a plain and simple instruction we can understand and follow. Help us to live out our statements and promises in a way that is full of your love and grace. Amen
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