“Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And whosoever shall swear by the alter, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind; for whether is greater: the gift or the alter that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the alter, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by Him that sitteth thereon.” (Matthew 23:16-22).
Probably one of the greatest disappointments we experience is when people don’t follow through on their promises. They commit to action, but their commitment is conditional. Sadly, what they really mean is they’ll fulfill their promise “if it works out for them” …..
Well, Jesus unloads on the act of promise-breaking hypocrisy in our passage this morning. He points out the lengths people will go to create a technicality or loophole to squirm out of commitments. Too often we want the benefits of a promise without the cost involved.
In (Matthew 23:16), the word “swears” does not describe cursing, but rather an oath or a vow. To swear is to make a solemn promise, to give your word. Our word should always be our bond. Yet, the Pharisees had a sneaky, “fingers-crossed-behind-their-backs” kind of clause in their commitments, and Jesus called their bluff. They would swear by the temple, but when challenged for their failure to keep their promises would respond, “Ah, but I didn’t swear by the gold in the temple” (23:17). Or they’d swear by the altar, but when challenged again would claim, “Ah, but I didn’t swear by the gift on the altar” (23:18), or worse, “but I didn’t swear by God, who dwells in the temple.” ….
The Pharisees expected to be released from their promises based on hidden technicalities. Sound familiar in our culture of broken commitments?
Jesus utterly crushed this nonsense and sorted out the nuances of honesty for a bunch of hypocrites. “And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.” Seriously, could He have been any clearer?
Here we find the differece between honesty and intergrity. Integrity is doing the right thing — even when nobody is watching. People of integrity keep their word, regardless of the cost. And significant commitments have one thing in common: they get tested. Whether it’s a commitment to our Savior for eternity, or to a spouse for life, or even to a friend, brother, or sister in the Lord in the form of a promised prayer, a finacial blessing, or any act of kindness, for those promises will not be left unchallenged ….
(Psalm 15:4) commends the person “who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” That simply means God honors those who follow through on their promises even when we realize the cost and personal sacrifice it may bring upon ourselves, but refuse to renege on our word ….
Another passage that the Bible speaks expressively concerning making promises and vows and then not following through is found in Ecclesiastes: “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon the earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by its multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it: for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou should not vow, than thou should vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angels that it was an error; wherefore should God become angry at thy voice and destroy the work of thine hands.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-6).
Did you catch that? Our mouths, yes even just our words can cause us to sin, and thereby anger God that He might respond with vengence upon us. We all face times when it would be a lot easier to go in a different direction, or preserve ‘self’ over others, especially when it pertains to a financial blessing. However, we have to expect that if we give our word on something, it will probably cost us, whether it be sacrifice, difficulty, or regret. Promises have been described like babies: easy to make and hard to deliver …..
In summary, consider your promises to God and others. What have you committed to the Lord? To your spouse? Have you heard His voice impressing upon your heart a certain thing, and how faithfully do you follow through? How are you tempted to look for technicalities to invalidate your commitments?
It’s very simple to be a man or woman of God, a person of integrity. Pay what you vow. Deliver what you promise, or don’t promise at all. That’s what sincere, honest people of integrity do ….
Hypocrites squirm out of promises that they don’t want to keep, or simply choose to not follow through. But it’s truly not so simple, because our inability to keep or not keep our word does not only hinge upon our faithfaithfulness to God’s call; but it can have devastating effects upon the receiver’s trust and faith in us as believers ….
Let us pray ~
Father God, I thank You that even when I am sometimes faithless, still You are faithful. You always keep Your Word and Your promises. I know that I can always place my trust in You, for You will never lie, make empty promises, or betray my trust. I’m sorry Father for the many times I have failed You. Please forgive me for all the times I have made promises to You in the past and not kept my word. I am humbled even now by the way in which You faithfully, gently, and ever so lovingly draw me back from my wanderings and rebellion, always ready to forgive me when I repent of my hypocrisy. Help me to become more attuned to Your voice when You prompt me to bless or pray for another, that I may be a person of my word even when it may cost me. Help me to make wise, thoughtful choices and to keep my promises to others no matter the sacrifice. Please grow and mature me into a woman that others can count on, trust and rely upon to always keep my word. In Jesus’ name I ask and pray, Amen.
Be blessed today …. ❤