When Jesus addresses the issue of people taking oaths, as opposed to simply letting their “yes” be “yes” and their “no”, “no”, he is continuing a trend in his teaching where he is asking the audience to think smaller instead of bigger. Don’t think about the act of murder, but instead think about being reconciled to each other. Don’t think about the act of adultery, but instead guard your heart against lust. Don’t think about grand oaths taken before God, but instead simply keep your word.
The problem with the little things in life is that we encounter them every single day, so we have so many more opportunities to mishandle them compared to the larger issues. If we can convince ourselves that we are judged on the basis of the larger issues, then we won’t have to concern ourselves with these smaller points. That is what the rabbis had been teaching back in the years leading up to Jesus’ life, and it became a point of corrective teaching when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus teaches that the little actions, frequently done without thinking, are a much truer reflection of the condition of our hearts. He would go on to say in Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” For this reason, Jesus helps us to look at our own lives more clearly, so that we can become more aware of our own sinful tendencies. Most of us need to look into the tiny details of our lives to truly understand how far we have strayed from God. And when our mouths proclaim “yes” but our actions then speak something else, the true condition of our heart is revealed.
Truth with the little things must be a defining characteristic of a Christian, because truth is a defining characteristic of God. The faith of Christians throughout the world and across the ages rests upon God as one who keeps His promises. We endure persecution and temptation because we trust that God has redeemed us. We persevere, because His “yes” means “yes”, and His “no”, “no”. As His ambassadors, in whom the Holy Spirit abides, we can do no less than to follow His example.
Don’t worry about the big things in life. Bring your focus back to the little details, those daily decisions that you are faced with as you live your life in fellowship with those around you. With a heart fully given over to the Lord, seek daily His righteousness. Let your “yes” be “yes”, and therefore become known as one who is faithful and true, one who keeps their word. For it is then that you are well positioned to proclaim God’s Word to them in both word and deed, loving them just as Christ loved us.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron