This is what the Lord has commanded: A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do. (Numbers 30:1-2)
Relate: A few different times and places I have bumped into a similar scenario. A Jewish man makes a vow along the lines of, “I will never sell to that man again.” Maybe it is said in anger. Maybe he felt cheated. Whatever the reason, the vow is made and soon thereafter it is regretted. So what is he to do? “A man who makes vow to the Lord or a pledge under oath must never break it.” Never means never. Here we find the glorious innovation of the middle man. The person making the pledge “gives” his trade goods to a third party. That third party then sells those goods and in return “gifts” that pledger with a specific amount of money. The sale has been made and the vow has been kept. The rest of the world has this need to maintain the vow among devout Jews to thank for the creation of loopholes and bureaucracy. Thanks.
By the time of Jesus, loopholes around vows abounded. Some such loopholes were probably first thought up as a way to help a man escape a stupid, unthought out vow. Others had the more nefarious intention of tricking someone into trusting a very untrustworthy fellow. Jesus Himself points out the stupidity of some of these loopholes when He said:
“Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne. (Matthew 23:16-22)
In many ways, the Pharisees tried to make the rules tougher and tougher while Jesus intentionally loosened them up. In this matter, however, we have the reverse. The Pharisees were constantly trying to loosen the binds while Jesus tightened them up. He said to make your “yes” yes and your “no” no. In other words, don’t make vows but instead treat every word that comes out of your mouth as though it were a vow. God is truth and He takes the speaking of truth very, very seriously.
React: I can’t tell you the number of times I have made a comparison where the “little white lie” is on one end of the spectrum and something like “murder” is on the other. As much as I understand the truth that sin is sin is sin, a part of me cannot wrap itself around the seriousness and gravity of something like lying. Perhaps that is because I have never killed anybody. I have never been a crack addict, adulterer, or embezzler so it is easy to point to such things as horrible evils. I have told lies. I have, like a Pharisee, tried to bend my words around the truth in such ways that what I am technically saying is nothing like what you think you might be hearing. This is still lying. There are no loopholes around the truth. I am guilty.
You are truth. You cannot lie for the simple fact that whatever You say immediately becomes. I have been created in Your image. Help me to understand the huge power and immense responsibility that leaves me to be a speaker of the untwisted truth. Help me to understand that every time I lie I am abrogating the power given me. Every time I lie I am making a direct assault on the very nature of who You are. Help me to realize that my every lie is blasphemy. Give me the courage, and the wisdom, and the self discipline to always and only speak the truth.