A Better Way: Integrity

Look it Up: Matthew 5:31-37

Consider: We learned last week that the Scribes and Pharisees allowed men to look so long as they didn’t act (which Jesus opposed); and what we find in this portion of Jesus’ sermon is that they also devised a way for those men to act on their lust and still be considered “righteous.” All they had to do is get rid of their wives by sending them away with a certificate, then they’d be free to pursue their lust.

It is important to make a cultural observation before we delve too deeply into Jesus’ argument against the Scribes and Pharisees. In that day, everyone got married, and often very young. This was such a dominate aspect of their culture that the word for woman and wife were the same word. Which also means that any women these men were looking at was most likely someone else’s wife; and they themselves were married.

Jesus said that any husband who divorced his wife, unless she was unfaithful, was not acting righteously at all. In fact, these husbands who were using divorce to pursue their lust were placing their wives in a position where they had no choice but to break their own vow; and even though these husbands had done what was required by the Scribes and Pharisees (give a certificate of divorce), they themselves were committing adultery when they married the object of their lust, another man’s former wife.

Most of the people who examine Jesus’ condemnation of the unrighteous behavior advocated by the Scribes and Pharisees do so in trying to determine whether they can “biblically” get remarried after a divorce. Jesus was not trying to “lay down the law” on divorce and remarriage, he was advocating that we are to keep our vows. Breaking one’s oath to the Lord was not limited to marriage vows; and Jesus reminded them that just as their ancestors were told not to make false vows, but were to fulfill their vows, so were they to do so.

Just as the Scribes and Pharisees had come up with a system that allowed marriage vows to be broken; they also had a system in place to break the other vows a person might make. It was sort of like “King’s X” or “I had my finger’s crossed.” If they made a vow heaven, they had to keep it; but if they made one by the earth, they didn’t have too. It was very complicated.

Jesus said that there was a better way. Instead of making oaths, we should let our yes be yes and our no be no. In other words, we should be people of integrity in every area of our lives – to our spouses, our family, our business partners, etc… If we say that we are going to do something, we do it, even if that means making a sacrifice, and there is no getting out of it.

Prayer: Lord, give me the strength to be a person of truth. Amen.