It’s one thing to understand the symptoms; it’s another to get the diagnosis right. Effectiveness of the prescription depends on the accuracy of the diagnosis. So, when it comes to the brokenness of humanity, the symptoms are easily identified, but it’s the diagnosis that’s difficult.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day (Scribes and Pharisees) diagnosed our problem as largely behavioral (we all have bad, sinful habits). According to them, the key is to break those habits and learn to do good instead. So, the religious leaders prescribed long lists of do’s and don’ts, all in service of reforming behavior. What most religion teaches is to work hard at being good by keeping the rules.
But Jesus has a different diagnosis: the problem isn’t just in our behavior, it’s in our hearts. And we can modify our behavior all we want, but unless our hearts are transformed on the inside, we’re never going to be truly right. Jesus’ prescription is for new heart: He says to “repent, follow me, I will give you a new heart and an abundant life in the Kingdom of Heaven”
In this sermon, we approach the seemingly odd topic of swearing oaths. Here, Jesus said He can take your heart that swears oaths and give you a heart that simply says “yes” or “no”.
It’s an odd topical shift in the Sermon on the Mount, so let’s look closely at what is going on:
- The Symptoms: The reason why we take vows or swear at all, is because we have a problem with utilizing untrustworthy manipulation and exploitation. Jesus says that all our vows and oaths are symptomatic of a far deeper problem.
- The Diagnosis: We all have hearts diseased with a disintegrated and coercive self-interest. Put simply, the reason people swear oaths is because their hearts lack integrity. Little white lies, polite untruths, exaggeration, spin, and flattery are all evidence of the problem. Jesus is warning us that the words we use are telling because they reveal our hearts. When our hearts are full of integrity, our yesses mean yes, and our no’s mean no. But when integrity is lacking, five evils unfold: it destroys community, disintegrates identity, desecrates others, decimates credibility, and leads to delusions thinking.
- The Prescription: It’s important to remember that Jesus isn’t laying down a new law, he’s illustrating a new heart that is available to us in the Kingdom of Heaven… the kind of heart he’s offering to us if we will come and follow Him. We need the integrity of a childlike heart.
When you have a childlike heart, you can say: “In Jesus Christ, I am not an Orphan… I’m a Child of God. I’m not on my own. I don’t have to fend for myself. Because my Father is watching over me, I know at every moment of every day He is with me, He is for me, He is life to me. And I don’t need to manipulate and coerce others to get my needs met, I don’t need to use oaths to get my way, I can simply say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
God is making His children into the kind of people who do not need oaths to be believed because we’re becoming people of integrity, like God himself.
Takeaway: Jesus offers to make you whole.
- The first step to integrity is admitting we have none.
- Next is understanding that Jesus is the true integrity we lack.
- Then the Spirit can lead us in the way of Jesus, into the integrity of a childlike heart.
Watch Living the Message episode: https://youtu.be/6Ej1HJQL02I