Jesus Talks about Lying

David Bast

Read: Matthew 5:33-37

Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No.” (v. 37)

When I was a boy I used to watch a television program called Truth or Consequences. It was a little game where contestants had to answer a question truthfully or suffer a consequence. What would it be like if real life were that way? Imagine a world where everyone had to pay an immediate penalty whenever they said anything false or misleading. There wouldn’t be any more television commercials. Sales staff would all need extensive job retraining. Politicians would say things like, “You know, my opponent is actually the better candidate.”

But it’s not “truth or consequences” in real life. People don’t tell the truth. They twist it, distort, or disguise it in a hundred ways. They slander, gossip, create false impressions, exaggerate, utter outright lies—and pay no immediate penalty. Oftentimes it even seems to benefit them.

When Jesus tells his followers not to swear an oath, he’s not saying we can’t do things like recite the Pledge of Allegiance or swear to tell the truth in a court of law. Rather, he means that for Christians, truthfulness should not be reserved for special occasions only, when we are bound by an oath. When he tells us to let our “yes” mean “yes,” he means we should speak plainly and without misleading or evasive statements. The first stereos were known as “hi-fis,” short for “high fidelity.” Christians ought to be high-fidelity people, whose word can be trusted. —David Bast

Prayer: “Let the words of my mouth . . . be acceptable in your sight, O Lord” (Ps. 19:14).