Unguarded Speech

by Stephen Olford

Text:  But I say to you, do not swear at all…but let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5: 34,37). 

Thought: The life of righteousness must issue in the language of righteousness; this is the essence of the teaching set forth in Matthew 5:33-37. Not only should speech be guarded when God’s Name is invoked, but at all times and in every circumstance in life. In view of this, it is imperative that we should consider:

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1. The Serious Character of  Unguarded Speech: “You shall not swear falsely, but  shall perform your oaths to the Lord” (v. 33). Jesus is here pointing out the serious character of unguarded speech. The Jews divided oaths into two classes: those that were absolutely binding and those that were not. This dichotomy affected the conversational life of that day, which the Lord severely condemned. Swearing falsely is the sin of perjury, while speaking loosely is the sin of profanity.

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2. The Solemn Condemnation of Unguarded Speech: “Do not swear at all,” said the Master (v. 34).  God condemns unguarded speech for two reasons: first, the present-day effects, and second, the future-day exposure. Jesus declared: “every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36).

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3. The Simple Control of Unguarded Speech: “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (v. 37). Scholars tell us that the Greek construction here suggests two thoughts: evil in our hearts (internal attack) and also the influence of the devil (external attack). Thank God the solution is, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.” The only One who speaks like that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, our daily experience should find us speaking the words prompted by the Savior who dwells in us by His Spirit (Gal. 2:20).

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Guard my lips dear Lord, I pray,

 As I live and talk each day;

 Teach me always to employ,

 Words of grace, and truth, and joy.


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