Reading: Matthew 5: 27-37
As Jesus continues in Matthew 5, He shifts from murder and anger to the topics of adultery, divorce, and making oaths. In much the same way as He did with murder, Jesus looks at these three as individual acts, but now adds their impact on society. In doing so, Jesus seeks to contrast the envisioned culture of God against the current culture of man. Jesus is laying out a vision for a new world order, one based on an economy of equality and honesty and compassion.
In each of these short teachings on adultery, divorce, and oaths, Jesus is recasting how we should look at these. Just as with ‘do not murder’ resting upon our anger as it’s root, in these cases Jesus also delves deeper and looks at the impact of these three on the larger culture and society. In cases of adultery, divorce, and breaking oaths, at the core is our commitment to one another. In the culture of the day, in Jewish Law, the cases dealing with adultery and divorce really only expressed concern for the man. Jesus says, OK then, let the man be responsible. Jesus says if you look lustfully at a woman, you have committed adultery. This follows with admonition to then poke your eye out so that you do not continue to sin. Jesus goes on to say that divorce cannot come on the whim of the man, but can come only in cases of marital unfaithfulness. In both cases, Jesus is protecting and elevating the status of women and establishing a much higher standard of accountability for all people.
Jesus continues this theme as He turns to making oaths. He is straightforward – do not swear by anything. Simply let you ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Simple as that. No more, no less. This concept can, of course, be applied back to the first two topics: adultery and divorce. When we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, we are saying ‘no’ to the world. Our ‘yes’ to Jesus means saying ‘no’ to the desires of the flesh and to our own selfish desires. It means honoring and respecting all people as equals, as children of God worthy of our love. This of course extends to marriage – in the “I do” we are saying ‘yes’ to being faithful and obedient and loving to our spouses.
Jesus is calling for a world based on relationships that honor and uphold one another, that place love and concern and care for one another above our own well-being. He is calling us to live as He lived, bringing honor and glory to God in all we do, say, and to think. May it be so.