Week 3 – Oaths
Read: Matthew 5:33-37 and your notes from Sunday morning’s sermon.
When you think of an oath you may picture someone with hand over heart or on a bible in the courtroom swearing to tell the truth and the whole truth. Or maybe you think of the promises you made to your parents as a kid. “I promise I will walk, feed, and take care of the puppy!”, “I promise I don’t have any homework today.” Or maybe you think of telling an unbelievable story and you say “I swear to God! That’s really what happened!”
In Judaism at this time, oaths were a common thing and a big part of daily life. The Mishnah (the oral traditions and interpretations of scripture passed down over time) even has an entire section just on oaths. Oaths for all intents and purposes were solemn statements that were considered fact because they were stated before God. The thought was that if you referred to God, then the truth MUST be said. Of course, many nuances stemmed from this. If you did not refer to the name of God then you needn’t be held to the oath. So when Jesus mentions swearing on Heaven and Earth, this is a common way that people would swear something, but then later not be held accountable because they technically did not swear before God. People at this time believed that lying to one another did not concern God – but when you swore by His name and then it was found to be untrue, people would expect the lie to be punished.
Jesus clarifies that no matter what we swear by, we are still swearing by God. Heaven is His throne, earth is His footstool, and everything is His. God is in everything, so every statement is made before Him anyway. There is no breaking that connection. He goes further though to tell His disciples to not swear at all. The reason is that His disciples should tell the truth always. He doesn’t want them to be like everyone else and only be truthful when they swear. There should be no need for oaths because our word should be dependable. We should simply let our yes be yes and our no be no.
- What is the most recent promise you made? Share it with the group.
- Have you ever made a promise that you didn’t keep? Why do you think you felt the need to make it a promise in the first place?
- What are some of examples of scenarios where it is considered okay to lie or be dishonest? Would Jesus have us participate in this culture or reject it?
Feel free to discuss or ask additional questions as they arise
Spiritual Practice: Service as a way of living
We’ve been talking about the spiritual discipline of service. We learned a little bit about what true service looks like and where it is often found. How do we bring those ideas of service into our daily lives as practice? And what is the result? First, we must realize that simply doing acts of service is not the same as living in the discipline of service. Living in the discipline of service means becoming a servant from the inside out. It means taking on all of the negative parts of service, like being taken advantage of, or being taken charge of as a master takes charge of a slave because we are choosing to do so as servants. Doing this voluntarily teaches us humility. One of the easiest ways to live in the service of others is to choose to do hidden service. Richard Foster says in his book Celebration of Discipline” that:
“The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition. It will devise subtle, religiously acceptable means to call attention to the service rendered. If we stoutly refuse to give in to this lust of the flesh, we crucify it. Every time we crucify the flesh, we crucify our pride and arrogance.”
When we engage in these hidden acts of service or the services where we almost surely will receive no reward or recognition, we become more like Christ not only in the spirit of service but in the spirit of humility.
This week look for small acts of service that you can do. Be especially mindful to say yes to opportunities that may take precious time from your day, are inconvenient to your schedule, or require you to stretch and bend from what you would prefer to do. These are the services that will produce humility in us!
Closing verse: Matthew 5:37 “Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.