A few years ago, whilst back in my hometown of Brighton, I promised my son that I would take him out to my favourite takeaway restaurant to have the best burger he had ever tasted. We didn't end up going and he was not happy! He didn't let me forget about it until I took him the following year.
In Matthew 5 v 37, Jesus is talking about making oaths - promises that people would make and would swear by. It seems that his audience were swearing by all different kinds of things including heaven, Jerusalem and their heads!
In typical style, Jesus makes a very clear and simple instruction “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’”.
It may be just me, but this is something I need to remind myself of regularly! Whilst I may not necessary make promises very often I can find myself slipping into saying something I don’t really mean.
For example, when someone invites me to an event that I don’t really want to go to, I can find myself saying something like “Yes, I should be there” – knowing full well I have no intention of going. For some it can be saying, “Yes, I’ll be there at 7.30” whilst making very little attempt to get there on time.
In some ways, it might seem that this doesn't really matter and maybe it isn't that serious (or some might say – “We don’t need to be legalistic”). However, Jesus presents a big challenge for us to always be true to our words.
Having two children has highlighted this to me – if I go back on something I said I would do, they soon let me know about it and it could easily lead to them not trusting me in the future.
In a similar, way, if my friends who are not Christians don’t trust me in the everyday things I say, why would they trust me when I’m sharing something about my faith? This should be enough to make me sit up and think more carefully about what I say!
In fact, Jesus goes on to say “Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” – wow, that’s a bit serious!
I better be careful what I say then…..!