Jesus gave ten examples to help us understand that the kingdom is a matter of the heart. We will explore three more here. Because they are examples, the “doing” of these sayings is easier to identify – and that is a good thing. However, we must remember that Jesus’ focus remains on our hearts, not our performance; the goal is to be made into kingdom citizens, not to make or justify ourselves.

Do Not Swear at All

Most of Jesus’ sayings in the Sermon on the Mount – you know, those sayings we are to do – are truly beyond our human ability. They are only accomplished by the life of Jesus Christ, the One who has come to live in us. Here we find an exception – one saying that appears quite easy to obey. And yet, mankind has amazingly chosen to do something in complete opposition to what Jesus has said. Truly, how do we excuse ourselves?

Consider the matter of oath taking. Jesus said:

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37

Could anything be more clear? Whatever is more than our “yes” and “no” is from the evil one. Why then do so many followers of Jesus Christ submit to the courts of this nation, put one hand on a Bible, raise the other, and swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Is this not taking an oath? Does it make it okay – or does it make it worse – that a Bible is used in this process?

These questions lead us to a deeper kingdom principle; something deeper than dos and don’ts. For those with eyes to see, this is a great example of the subtly of the evil one’s deception; leading to our conformity to the world.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

We would be wise to examine ourselves in light of this discovery. Our minds may be less renewed than we presume. If we would so casually do something that is from the evil one, what other deceptions might there be in our minds? Just how conformed to the world are we?

Make no mistake about it: Deception is our enemies’ greatest weapon, particularly in these last days. We must remain suspicious of the way we think. We must be on guard against the wiles of the Devil.

God’s will in this matter of oath taking is good, acceptable and perfect. Jesus made it abundantly clear; and He gave us a very simple task/test for our doing “these sayings of Mine”. Let us renew our minds in this area, and in the many other sayings of our Lord and Savior.

Overcome Evil with Good

There are passages in the Sermon on the Mount that are impossible to understand with the carnal mind. The fact that our minds are in the process of renewal leaves us in a vulnerable position. Perhaps this is God’s intent: To help us experience the humility that precipitates our taking on the mind of Christ.

I confess that I am experiencing that humility in regards to this passage:

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Matthew 5:38-41

Personally, I have lived a relatively safe life. There have been very few times in my 60 years that I have faced an evil person, and the temptation to resist them. I have not had the “opportunity” to turn the other cheek. I have not been sued; nor have I been compelled to go one mile. I hope you will ignore my lack of personal experience long enough to consider the following encouragements.

Firstly, as our society continues to devolve – as the One Who restrains is being removed (2Thessalonians 2:7) – I am becoming more confident that the day is coming when our houses will be tested by evil. Consequently, I have been asking the Lord to prepare my heart and mind to respond as He has instructed. I recognize that such a response is beyond me, but I know that it is not beyond Him. I trust that He will do what He requires when we are faced with this type of evil.

Secondly, there are a number of related issues that tend to complicate the hearing and doing of this passage. War is one; another, the defense of the helpless. Much has been said about both, so I don’t feel the need to go there. I bring them up simply to make the following point.

It is easy, unnecessary and dangerous to allow related issues to cloud the sayings of Jesus. This passage is about our personal response to the threat of an evil person. As important as the related issues are – and this passage to them – we must understand this saying simply for what it says; for we will be required to do it, just as Jesus said it.

Lastly, it is important to recognize that, unlike the passages on murder and adultery, where He simply sought to expand our understanding of the Law, here Jesus has presented a radically new perspective. The faulty perspective of most American Christians is that the Law was created to give us rights; in this case, the right to justice and vengeance. Here we experience a great contrast between the laws of this land and those of God’s kingdom.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Jesus is saying that these are not our rights, but those of the Father. He is encouraging us to shift our perspective back to that of the bondservant and child; to give up our rights and trust God in the face of evil; so that He can use us as instruments of His love, goodness and glory. Remember, it is with the heart that man believes.

Give and Lend (Trust and Obey)

Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. Matthew 5:42

Honestly, I have had more questions than answers about this verse. Does this include every person on every corner that is holding up a “please help” sign? What about the professional panhandlers I come across in downtown Atlanta? What if they are going to use it for drugs or some other addiction?

Do I donate every time every organization sends a request? Does this include candidates for political office, or just people in need? What if I run out of money; won’t I become a part of the problem? Is there not some other way to understand this saying of Jesus Christ? Did He really mean what He is saying here?

I have an opinion about the meaning of this saying; but does my opinion matter? Perhaps more important is what all these questions reveal. Am I looking for understanding; or for an excuse to move this verse to the “consider later” basket; and move on to something else? Oswald Chambers (1995) has something enlightening to share about our normal response:

“The way Christians wriggle and twist and compromise over this verse spring from infidelity to the ruling providence of our heavenly Father. We enthrone common sense as God and say, ‘It is absurd; if I give to every one who asks, every beggar will be at my door.’ Try it. I have yet to find the person who obeyed Jesus Christ’s command who did not realize that God restrains those who beg.”

It seems this verse is pivotal in our discussion and obedience to “these sayings of mine” in the Sermon on the Mount and beyond. There is this option of moving on to “easier” sayings. But if we start now, I guarantee most of the rest will go in the same direction; and habits are hard to break. Perhaps now is the time to face our fears and deal with the reality of our commitment to faith and obedience.

Have you ever noticed how our carnal mind drags us quickly to the extreme consequence when we are threatened with certain truths, sayings and commands? In this case, it is next to impossible to stop from thinking about our resultant poverty and homelessness. Our emotions follow, amplifying our thoughts with fears of foolishness and embarrassment. The carnal mind is a well-practiced deceiver and distractor.

Graciously, God offers us revelation in such moments. Most obviously, our fears reveal the area where we are holding on to our own kingdom. Second, they reveal our lack of faith in God for our future security. Third, and most sobering, they challenge our claim of unconditional and sacrificial love for Jesus Christ (John 14:21).

Consequently, our extreme responses reveal areas of our lives that God has judged and identified for our repentance. And so, now is a good time to remember:

 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

Nothing is impossible with God; even changing the hearts and minds of those that are stubbornly self-protective. I believe the beginning for every lover of Jesus Christ is the discovery of their heart’s desire for faith and obedience. Our transformation begins with a prayer like this:

Father God, I confess my unbelief and disobedience. Thank You for challenging me in this area of my life. I know You love me, and have a plan for me and those I love. I know You are trustworthy. I need Your help. Reveal and encourage me in the desire of my heart for faith and obedience to this command. Replace my fear of the consequences with the fear of not allowing You to do this work in me. I surrender to that work; in Jesus’ name. Amen

God rewards our surrender by giving us the desire of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). The process has begun. May He bless you (and me) with the wisdom and courage to pursue it to the end.

Humbly yours and forever His,


Chambers, O., (1995), Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers.