Posted by: richard | 21 November, 2007

Words: Are they our bond? (1/2)

On Monday 26th November we will examine Matthew 5:33-37 and the question of integrity.

The Old Testament teaching was clear: vows to the Lord should be kept, and truthfulness in all things was expected (Numbers 30:2 and Deuteronomy 23:21). By shifting the emphasis from truthfulness to honouring only those vows made to the Lord, the Pharisees in their interpretation of the Law justified the use of meaningless vows (vows made on lesser items were less binding!) Jesus clearly exposes both the hypocrisy and meaninglessness of these distinctions and tells us to speak plainly and honestly, to mean what we say and follow through on it with integrity.

Some questions to prepare for our discussion. It might be good to blog on questions 3 and 4 in particular to get us warmed up…

  1. Where do we see damage being done by dishonesty/hypocrisy in our immediate circles (family and friends), intermediate circles (work , clubs and church) and our wider society? Try to think of at least one concrete example in each category.
  2. Why does it matter anyway that we – as followers are Jesus – are full of honesty and integrity?
  3. We all have a great tendency to justify dishonesty. When we lie we have decided that the ends justify the means (avoiding hurt feelings for example). What are those types of situations that tend to cause us to, er, be less than generous with the truth? Are there situations when the ends really do justify the means?
  4. Alternatives to lying include saying “maybe” rather than “yes” or “no”, or not to say anything at all. In what situations are these responses valid, and when are they just cop-outs?
  5. Think of an example (or two) of when you might blurt out a commitment without thinking through whether we really intend to follow through or not (“I’ll pray for you”). For example, if you find it hard to say no, do you ever find that you regret your “yes” and later change it (perhaps through simple inaction) into a “no”?
  6. What particular action can you take in this area?


  1. heehee we’re having this reading at our wedding!!!

  2. does my bum look big in this?

  3. Does the morality of the questioner come into play? If, sheltering Jews in France during WWII, you were asked by a Nazi official, “Are you sheltering Jews?”, would you answer, “Yes”, “No” or “Whatever do you mean?”

    You could argue that answering “Yes” is the only possible moral answer, because otherwise it’s lying. Answering “No” is a lie, but is it acceptable because it will save a life? I assume that an evasive answer will be read as “Yes” 😉

    Excuse me for taking such an extreme example, but I think that most people would say in this case the only possible response is “No, I am not sheltering any Jews”. Is this a case of common morality conflicting with Christian values? Is a Christian called to uphold their personal spiritual/moral integrity above everything else? If so, how is God glorified? If not, what criteria are there to define when it’s OK and when it’s not? OK when there are lives at stake? Or our friend’s self-esteem (see Emma’s question above)?

    Sorry I won’t be there to stir things up! I look forward to hearing about it.

  4. Regarding Robbie’s question:
    Joshua 2, James 2:24-26, Hebrews 11:30-32.

  5. Is it always a good idea to be 100% truthful to children?

    What about Father Christmas? My Christian sisters took opposing views on this. One kept the myth going until her 9 yr old daughter found out the truth at school and came home saying “It’s a good job I asked otherwise how would I have known to give presents to MY kids?!”. My other sister told her kids the truth from an early age, which they then spread around school when they were 4.

    Or what about when a kid asks about where babies come from? Is it ok to bend the truth a little as they have no comprehension of what really happens?!

    My gut feeling is there must be times when it’s ok to NOT give a truthful answer to someone’s question. But as to how we discern how and when… It doesn’t say if Rahab went and prayed about it, though that’s got to be a good start. Most times though we don’t have the luxury of prayerful reflection.

  6. Interesting questions; thanks for raising these. I searched on the Web to get some food for thought on all this, and found the following article quite helpful:

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