Posted by: Brad Beaman | December 3, 2007

Sermon on the Mount: Living in a Fishbowl


I remember when I was pastor of a church and living in the parsonage directly across from the church. It was like living in a fishbowl. It was the glass house syndrome where it seemed everyone could see right into our house. People knew if I was home, because my car was parked there. They knew who was visiting me because they would see their cars parked at my house. They could see if I cut my grass regularly, what time the lights went out etc.

Then suddenly something changed. Our church relocated to a new building about two miles away. The church building across from my house was sold to one of our daughter congregations. Now I was constantly looking out my window watching that church. How many cars were parked there for the services? How many youth were outside playing volleyball on Tuesday evening? I changed from the fish in the fishbowl to the aquarium owner watching those fish.

I found that I was not only being watched but that I too was watching others. I started thinking about the fishbowl condition. I realized that in one sense every Christian is in a fishbowl. Everyone who follows Christ is being watched at work, school, at the marketplace and in your glass house. You live in a fishbowl and people are watching to see if your walk matches your talk.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us to live our lives on a deeper level of righteousness. He deals with the motives and attitudes of the heart. We are to live as salt and light. We are to have a lifestyle that gives a message to a watching world.

Matthew 5:33-37
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

When Jesus begins this part of his Sermon on the Mount discourse on oaths he is referring back to the ninth of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. This teaching is also found in Leviticus 19:12 Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

The teaching began to form that if you made an oath in God’s name it was binding. So far so good, but it went on; if it wasn’t in God’s name it was not binding.

They would swear by the gold of the temple altar, but not the alter itself. They did not keep their word. They thought they did not have to because they did not swear by the Lord’s name.

They acted like a young child who thinks because they have their fingers crossed they are excused from the truth. None of this honored God. They were justifying false testimony. Jesus calls us to a higher standard of integrity. People are watching us and they don’t tolerate a forked tongue lightly.

Matthew 5:34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.

Jesus threw out all the foolishness and boiled it down to this. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. If you say it mean it. Believers do not need escape clauses from honesty. Christians need to win the worlds attention by a higher standard of honesty and integrity.

We are to be like Daniel whose life was scrutinized and they could not find any dishonesty or inconsistency. That is the heart of what Jesus is saying, honesty and truth.  Christians are to live by such a high standard of integrity that a simple yes is as binding as if we said, I swear by God or the Bible. Yes means yes and no means no.

Remember others are watching the way you live. People will only be influenced by those they trust.


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