Interview tips

Interview tips

Sometimes old things need rehashing. Some pieces of advice seem so properly basic, so commonsensical, that we may not think they deserve our time. But there are others among us who would be well served by some 101 preliminaries in an area that we have probably all experienced: job interviews. I’ve experienced some tremendous interviews with high-capacity candidates, while others left me scratching my head asking, “Did that just really happen?” Here are a few tips (not an exhaustive list) on how to handle yourself in an interview process...

  • Be. On. Time.

Never be late. Ever. For most high-energy, driven leaders, to be late to a job interview is a borderline unpardonable sin. It says you’ve not been able to master the most rudimentary lesson of maturity: showing up. Showing up late is disrespecting everyone else’s time. Too harsh? Think about it this way: if you’re late to a job interview, you’re essentially saying that other things took priority over your previous commitment to meet your prospective boss at the agreed upon time. It is to say your time is more valuable than your host’s. Even if your resume says you shine brightly in other areas, they’ll be wondering if you’re chronically inconsistent. “But I’m a free spirit!” Your interviewer may agree and wish you the best to spread your wings unfettered by restrictive deadlines and weighty projects…just not as an employee of their organization. 

  • Look at yourself in the mirror before leaving the house or hotel.

Even if the website says something like “Come as you are” or “Casual work environment,” remember that you are interviewing as a potential leader/employee rather than as a parishioner or customer. You represent the organization. One time a prospective team member showed up to an interview dressed in a t-shirt, old jeans, and a baseball cap. Remember, you’re applying for a job, not making a 2 a.m. donut run to your local Walmart. Granted, there are churches or businesses that are expressly very casual. Not a thing in the world wrong with that, but casual doesn’t mean sloppy. Let the leader set the dress code. Never try to do it yourself.

  • Answer questions: Don’t dance around them. 

It’s likely that your prospective employer is familiar with the “rope-a-dope” common in political discourse. It’s where the candidate doesn’t directly answer questions but attempts to redirect to what he or she feels comfortable talking about. While it may be an effective method of parrying partisan shots, it can be disastrous in an interview. Why? It reveals a lack of respect for the person asking the question. Saying “I don’t know” is a far better response than to insult the questioner’s intelligence by throwing out a half-baked red herring. Also, as a side note, look your interviewer in the eyes. Not an unnerving “I’m going to hold my gaze longer than you hold yours” but a genuine “I care about what you’re saying or believe deeply what I’m saying” sort of eye-contact. It’s rather shocking how rare this happens in interviews. 

  • Don’t use questions as an excuse to tell your life story. 

If you like to talk, shift it down a gear or two before the interview. If people have told you that you’re a talker, seriously pray before the interview. If you’re asked a simple question and it ends with your entire life story or the unabridged chronicles of how you met your spouse, it's unlikely to amuse your possible boss. The response should answer the question rather than unleash a torrent of verbal minutia that would cause even an IRS agent to duck for cover. It’s not a bad thing to talk about your experiences, but remember that they’re probably more interesting to you than to other people. This especially applies in a job interview. If the question asks for details then give them…within reason. Appropriately watering a plant and flooding the entire countryside are two different things altogether.  

  • Express genuine gratitude to your host. 

Did they treat you to lunch? Reserve you a hotel room? Give you the time of day? If so, then clearly express your gratitude for any level of consideration they've given you. This will demonstrate your maturity and emotional awareness. Graciously thanking them for their time shows respect. Expressing gratitude goes beyond simply noticing how the world works: you’re genuinely thankful for them as a person. You’re seeking to encourage them regardless of how the job interview turns out. You’re taking the high road. Period. Something like, “I know you have a lot on your plate. Thanks so much for sharing some of your valuable time with me. Tell your team/family I said “Thanks!”” can do nothing but help you. Humility opens doors. Pride burns bridges. 

Lust takes, Love gives

“I love you.” Those three words are incredibly powerful…and dangerous. In relationships, this phrase has often been used to excuse one from responsibility or to “get” something from the other person. Lust often disguises itself as true love. Lust is simply the craving for what is off-limits or out of season. God is not against sex. He invented it. Marriage is the season for physical intimacy. Picking the forbidden fruit out of season brings brokenness and regret. “But she’s/he’s so hot!” While this may be true, hell is also hot and that’s your life will be full of if you’re in a relationship founded on physical attraction alone. What should the unmarried among us do? Wait on God to fulfill God-given desires that bring joy not regret. 

In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus goes deeper than merely the physical aspect of immorality where he proclaims, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if you right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

There are several presuppositions that Jesus brings to the table:

  • Adultery is bad per natural law, Old Testament Law, & the internal law of the conscience – 5:27

You can’t find the right person by doing the wrong thing. While God’s grace is more powerful than our sin, purposefully choosing to cheat so that God can produce a story of redemption is not called grace: it’s a dangerous presumption on God’s grace. If you’ve been tempted to cheat remember that if you truly care for the person you’ll do what’s best for them. Leading them to toss Jesus’ commandments in the trash is not what’s best for them but pointing them towards Great Healer is.

  • Adultery is bad because it violates the covenant of marriage – 5:27

Affirming the wrongness of adultery is a shrewd reference to a standard. If there’s no standard there can be no violation. If there is no law, there can be no prosecutable crime. Contracts can be scrapped but covenants are sacred.

  • Jesus assumes the role of ultimate authority: “But I say to you…” – 5:28

Not only does Jesus not refer to other famous teachers of the Law but He basically assumes the role of judge. For a first century, Palestinian rabbi to do such a thing was unconscionable…unless he was more than a Teacher.

So how does Jesus address the weed of lust that seems to continually crop up despite human religion’s best attempts to control it?

  • Jesus extends the boundary of adultery from merely the external to the internal: Lust = heart adultery[1] – 5:28

Jesus takes it to a whole new level where lust in the heart = adultery. Notice Jesus’ key phrase, “looking with lustful intent” – πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι. The word, ἐπιθυμέω/lust = ‘to set one’s heart on a thing’ ① to have a strong desire to do or secure something, desire, long for.[2] So one use is simply desire, which can actually be a good desire. Here are a few examples of such uses in the New Testament:

Matthew 13:17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Luke 15:16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

Luke 17:22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.

1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Heb. 6:11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,

As we see, ἐπιθυμέω isn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ word for bad desires. However, for something out of season or off-limits, natural, God-given desires can bring great destruction. The 10th commandment hinges on this where God commands, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). Simply put, Jesus is getting past the discussion of outward morality and goes straight to the heart. Here are a few points that we would all do well to take to heart:

So what does lust encompass? Infidelity of the heart certainly fits within the scope of what

  • Adultery of the heart includes pornography and so-called “emotional affairs.”

The objection here is often, “But it’s not that big of a deal!” One rebuttal is, “If God is like us then that may be true…but He’s not like us…He is holy.” Jonathan Edwards said, “It is the natural tendency of sin and lust, to stupefy the conscience.”[3] If this is true, and Russell Moore’s warning, “The temple prostitution of Corinth has been digitalized and weaponized,”[4] is half-right, then it is very possible that our shock at sin is at least partially sedated. Some of us guys have heard, “You can look but you can’t touch.” That’s not loophole given by Jesus; that’s a cultural adage to keep you from getting murdered by your wife. In a popular

So what is the origin of lustful desires that seem to rage against our reason? Lusting for what isn’t ours has its roots in pride, not love. Romans 13:8-10 reads, “8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” On the contrary, pride says, “I deserve this” even when the “this” is off-limits or out of season.

It is helpful to remember several important facts when dealing with questions about lust:

  • Desires for marriage, sex, & relational intimacy are not evil; they are God-given but lust is a distortion of those desires.

In his classic work, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes, “What we call “being in love” is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust…the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.” Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go.”[5]

  • Jesus warns that the heart is the staging area for physical adultery (Mt. 5:28-30).

On the heart, Greek scholar A.T. Robertson writes, “Not just the emotional part of man’s nature, but here the inner man including the intellect, the affections, the will.”[6] Along with this is an old rabbinical saying, “The eye and the heart are the two brokers of sin.”[7]

Q: Is lust in the heart REALLY the same as physical adultery?

A: “All sin is equally damnable, but not all sin is equally devastating” – Mark Driscoll

Q: Why is this a big deal? I’ve always been told, “You can look but you can’t touch.”

A: Notice Mt. 5:29-30 and how quickly the eyes enlist the help of the hands and body to fulfill its lusts.

  • Jesus warns that lust is never satisfied until it destroys you: Unrestrained & unchanged heart or physical adultery leads to hell (Mt. 5:29-30).

Is Jesus really endorsing pre-UFC eye-gouging allowances? Is Jesus endorsing self-mutilation? No, but Jesus is commanding cutting off any allowance of deadly lust having its hooks in us. Jesus’ command is simple: Declare war on lust.[8] The point of the idea to ‘offend/ensnare’ is not that internal or physical adultery would offend our ‘personal preferences’ but that it would ensnare our soul leading to both physical and spiritual destruction in unending torment in hell. According to Jesus, an unchanged heart of lust places physical and emotional satisfaction (a sad illusion) in the position of God. Instead of loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, lust deceives our heart, and directs our mind, soul, and strength to be poured into the illusory sinkhole of self-satisfaction.

Benjamin Nolot, founder and president of Exodus Cry and Producer/Director of the Nefarious documentary against sex slavery, recounts a sobering encounter in an article titled, Who Buys Sex? Linking Porn and Human Trafficking.

“I have seen the face of human trafficking. While filming Nefarious: Merchant of Souls–a documentary on the global sex trade–I traveled to a small village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had heard that the village was a hotspot for child sex tourism, but I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived. When the dust around my vehicle settled after the long trip down the bumpy dirt road, I saw a white western man standing in front of a dilapidated shack. The man, probably in his late 40s, was bartering for sex with a child outside of a shanty brothel. My film crew and I quickly jumped out of our vehicle and began to approach the man. When he saw us, he took off down the dirt street towards the main highway and we gave chase, catching up to him just as he saddled the back of a moped taxi. I grabbed him by his shirt and stared straight into his eyes. The look on his face was one of sheer cowardice and it seemed that there was a literal film of perversion that glossed over his eyes. After I raised my voice, demanding that he never return to the village again, I let him go. As we walked back to our vehicle, I pondered what I just faced. Why was this happening? Who was this man? Why was the most lucrative business in this village child sex tourism? Then it hit me––this man didn’t wake up the day before and decide to fly to the other side of the world to buy a child for sex. Of all the men we talked with who had purchased a woman or child for sex in prostitution, there wasn’t one who didn’t have a history of viewing pornography. The deviant behavior of men in our world is not simply pathological; it has been taught to them. The hyper-sexualization of this generation has awakened an unprecedented demand for illicit sex. When men pay to view sex, they aren’t too far from taking the step to buy sex. Boys growing up in this culture form an objectified view of females at an early age. Ninety percent of them will view pornography between the ages of 8-16, with the average age of initial exposure being 11. When a young child’s fragile mind is exposed to the graphic images in pornography, it distorts his view of girls, sex, and relationships. He begins to see them as inanimate objects, devoid of humanity–a thing to be conquered instead of a person to love.”[9]

So what should we do to counter this epidemic?

How to Wage War on Lust, Heart & Physical Adultery:

  1. Take steps to avoid sexually oriented material that feeds lust.

Secular culture often tells us we need a ‘release’ and this so-called release is by no means benign. When someone whispers that tantalizing opportunity, the Christ-follower can simply and humbly respond, “I am not an animal.” This seductive ‘release’ whether it be porn, indulging in a lust novel, or cheating on one’s spouse may seem like a “Free Indulgence Pass” but in reality it only provides momentary excitement in exchange for unshakeable guilty (outside of the gospel), that requires deeper and more expansive releases that ultimately lead to destruction and death. So knowing this we want to take every step imaginable to avoid what feeds the monster of lust.

But what if I’m already hooked?

  1. Take steps of accountability via installing software on your computer, tablets, and smart phones and/or give your passwords to your spouse. are three good examples. Just go Nike here, “Just do it.”

2.  Avoid alone time alone with someone of the opposite gender who is not your spouse: “Before you cheat on your spouse you have to cheat on God first” – Mark Driscoll

To the objection, “I just slipped,” Adrian Rogers once quipped, “Then don’t walk in slippery places.”

3.  Meditate on specific Bible verses to reverse the damaging mental patterns created by heart adultery.

Scripture changes us. The more of it we get inside us the more the default of our thinking patterns change. If a guy has issues viewing women as meat, let us remember that she was once a little girl who played with dolls (or GI Joes if she was a tomboy). This woman is possibly a mother or wanting to be one or she may be attempting to smother grief such as brought on by a past abortion or something of the sort. One day she’ll be the age of your Mom. Then one day she’ll be grandma stage and possibly be in a nursing home gazing out the window in an existential struggle with loneliness. Men, we must allow God to so change our hearts that we view women as persons worthy of respect and not things to be used for our gratification. Women, you should find your worth and strength in God rather in the words or arms of a mortal man.

4.  A changed heart precedes a plan: Cry out to God for a changed heart.

Willpower is weak; only the Gospel can break the chains. Regeneration, where God radically changes our hearts, must precede any genuine life change. Let us cry out to God for mercy and forsake the lifeless materials of self-improvement. We don’t need self-improvement; we need a Savior and His name is Jesus Christ. First John 2:17 says, “The world is passing away and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

*For a full more detailed discussion of this important topic, check out our podcast:


[1] Much thanks to Pastor Mark Driscoll for coining this useful term.

[2] W. Arndt, F.W. Danker, & W. Bauer, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 371.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, The Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), 837.

[4] Russell Moore, “The Spiritual Consequences of Immorality,” September 5, 2013,

[5] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), 108-109.

[6] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), in Logos Library System [CD-ROM].

[7] Ibid.

[8] See, John Piper, “How to Kill Sin: Part 1,”

[9] “Who Buys Sex? Linking Porn and Human Trafficking,” Covenant Eyes, October 18, 2012,

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For the children: Human worth is something worth protecting

I absolutely love children. From feeding my little 15 month old nephew Cheerios to telling riveting Bible stories to the wide-eyed, enthusiastic 3-4 year olds of our Tykes Preschool, I’m able to catch a small glimpse into Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14, ESV). Children portray a beautiful innocence to the sordid details of our twisted planet. If children are among the defenseless ones (mentally challenged, physically handicapped, etc.), in a savage world, then how much more the ‘littlest’ children?

We intuitively know that children should be protected against those who would do them harm. So then why do so many in enlightened, 21st century, Western culture defend the barbaric practice of abortion in which the most defenseless ones among us are deprived of life, liberty, without due process? Regardless of religion or political affiliation, here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • Abortion goes contrary to American jurisprudence which errs on the side of life – Simply put, if there’s a doubt that the unborn are fully human, then why not err on the side of protecting life? In other words, is human life valuable? If so, then why take a chance? Human life is something worth protecting.
  • Abortion is not a side-show religious issue but one of justice – R.C. Sproul writes, “Do pro-life laws establish religion? The church is not asking the state to baptize human beings, but to protect the lives of unborn humans.”1
  • Abortion should take into account current science, not that of 1973 – The only difference between a zygote or embryo and that of a fully grown human, genetically speaking, is that of development. The unborn are fully human given that they have all the genetic information that, if not aborted, will result in a full grown human. At the time of Roe v. Wade (1973), ultrasound technology was about as developed as the Dallas Cowboys defense (very poor…and I’m a Cowboys fan). In their book, “Imaging and Imagining the Fetus: The Development of Obstetric Ultrasound,” Malcolm Nicholson and John Fleming write that ultrasound technology “has probably reached more or less the pinnacle of its acuity.”2 Thankfully to the advance of medical technology, this pinnacle is indeed one of crystal clear lucidity. Everything from unborn infants smiling, sucking their thumb, and flashing the “peace sign”3 (a telltale sign of a future hippy) is easily observable via ultrasound. Given these data, arguing that the unborn are merely masses of tissue is a symptom of a serious need for a scientific update.
  • Abortion is not the unpardonable sin – The power of the Gospel is stronger than any sin. Through the forgiveness of Jesus, Hebrews 8:12 can become a reality, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

It’s one thing to pontificate on seemingly abstract concepts related to the abortion debate, doing something about it is another. Here are a few concrete action steps to uphold the value of human life in our culture:

  • Consider volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center or financially supporting such ministries.
  • Consider becoming involved in the Pro-Life movement.
  • Refuse to support politicians or political groups that advocate abortion or euthanasia.
  • Look for ways to show grace of Jesus to women who have had abortions.
  • Look for ways to encourage the ill, aging, and unemployed who feel their worth is dwindling.


1. R.C. Sproul & Trevin Wax, “Do Pro-life Laws Establish Religion?” The Gospel Coalition, January, 18, 2014,

2. Tanya Lewis, “5 Fascinating Facts about Fetal Ultrasounds,” Live Science, May 16, 2013,

3. “Sign Baby is Born to be Wild,” The Sun, July 9, 2009,

Slick Speech

You don’t have to be a slick politician or a crooked lawyer to be good at lying: it just comes natural. Even though our hearts, if we’re honest, will readily admit that guilt seems to mount up the more we’re shady in our speech.  The ninth commandment states, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) but our brains don’t have to be firing on all cylinders to notice how much in our society is built on deception. We need lawyers to protect us from other people’s lawyers. We need locks to protect us from neighbors. We need agreements in signed contracts while there are still a few of the endangered species of “A-Man’s-Word-is-His-Bond” and even rarer, those willing to trust another person’s handshake as a firm gesture of good faith. 

Jesus faced a similar situation in his day. Not only did He live in a time of government corruption. The great Roman Republic had degenerated into the Roman Empire: a monster that had mutated from the rule of law to an autocratic and bureaucratic monster driven by tyrants whose passion for empty entertainment was only eclipsed by their own cruelty. Did Jesus find a counterbalance in the Jewish religious establishment? Unfortunately, Jesus found some of the stiffest opposition among those who had the closest access to Scripture. Here’s the situation He faced:

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil (Matthew 5:33-37). 

Here are a few observations…

  • Jesus is not condemning commitment. Rather, He is condemning the dishonest use of oaths and contracts to get out of obligations – 5:33-36

In the Old Testament, God Himself even uses oaths! On multiple occasions God says, “As I live…” (Numbers 14:28; Ezekiel 18:3, 20:33, 33:11). Isaiah 45:23 reads, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ Even the Apostle Paul puts an entire church under oath; “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers” (1 Thessalonians 5:27). Isaiah 65:16 states, “he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth.”

Out of context, Jesus’ words are somewhat confusing. Warren Wiersbe explains, “The Pharisees used all kinds of tricks to sidestep the truth, and oaths were among them. They would avoid using the holy name of God, but they would come close by using the city of Jerusalem, heaven, earth, or some part of the body.”[i] In other words, the people at the direction of many of the religious leaders, had become experts in slick speech. They would parse words and syllables to make it appear like they were serious about keeping commitments but as long as they didn’t swear by God Himself they didn’t think breaking one’s word was a big deal. Craig Keener explains, “They reasoned that if they broke their oath based on any of these lesser things, at least they were not bringing God’s name into disrepute.”[ii] It seems that Jesus is slicing into their false dichotomy of “little sins vs. Big Sins.”

We slip into a similar pit in our culture. We like to categorize the so-called big sins and little sins. Before going to seed on this we should be careful not to commit the fallacy of “all sin is the same.” In one sense this is true. All sin brings guilt and warrants God’s judgment but not all sins create the same amount of devastation.[iii] For example, a mass murderer causes far more carnage and suffering than the person who has the spirit of pride and arrogance yet outwardly follows the moral and civil law. However, internal pride and external genocide both place a person under God’s judgment. Outside of repentance and faith in Christ both the murderer and the internally arrogant both go to hell.

Notice that Jesus raises the bar far above the “little sin vs. Big Sin” distinction where he commands, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37). Jesus cuts to the heart of truth supplements in exposing how insane it is to intentionally make false promises by swearing by anything under the sun so long as its not by God Himself. Jesus states, “But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black” (Matthew 5:34-36). Jesus flays open the use of slick speech and goes to the heart of the issue: God isn’t concerned about the legalese; He’s concerned about the heart. For a Christ-follower, our word should be sufficient. We shouldn’t need to have to qualify our statements. Our character should be sufficient backing.

  • Jesus’ reference to Leviticus 19:12 highlights the Old Testament teaching on the seriousness of fulfilling vows: Give God what you’re promised Him – 5:33 The word ‘perform’ (ἀποδώσεις) can be translated – ‘to give up’ as in trees ‘giving up/yielding’ their fruit (Rev. 22:2 & Heb. 12:11).

What is God worthy of in your life? He’s worthy of everything and for the one who follows Him, He is worthy of being honored in the honesty of their speech. The word of a Christ-follower should be sufficiently trusted without having to be held over the fires of legalism.

  • Jesus once again assumes the role of the Old Testament interpreter – “But I say to you…” – 5:34

It’s sort of like saying, “I know that the Law says such and such but I say to you…” People would give you a puzzled look as if to say, “Who do you think you are?!” This is classic Jesus-speech where he indirectly references Himself as more than a prophet. 

  • Slick speech comes from hell – 5:37

Jesus’ tagline, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (5:37), exposes the sinfulness of the human heart that pull us away from commitment. In John 8:44-45 Jesus states, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” According to Jesus, speech that is not honest in form and honest in intention is inspired by Satan who is the father of lies.

So how can we apply Jesus’ teaching on slick speech to our lives?

1) Joy is found in sacrifice-intensive commitment rather than scooping off the top of others’ work. 

The satisfaction of ploughing, sowing, and reaping is far more joy-filled than waiting for someone else to do all the heavy lifting and only then swooping in and scooping off the top. Napoloeon Hill said, “Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.” We never just slide into commitment. Joy comes from sacrifice and sacrifice requires honest commitment. 

2) Our main priority is to be a witness for Christ: Small things are big things when you’re a light in the midst of darkness.
Jesus is not teaching mere moralism! Think of the insanity of a Christ-follower being honest in his or her business dealings but never making the connection to Christ. At best, someone will conclude that you’re just an awesome person. At the end of the day we’re not trying to create a wall of sticky note compliments about how great we are but become a mirror so that people can see Christ through our honesty in speech.  

3) Our motivation for fulfilling commitments should be rooted in God’s sovereignty.

Some feel that they would never be able to keep a commitment to God and even any commitment smacks of pride. Yet others think that to qualify a commitment to God with an oath reeks of legalism. So what gives? James 4:13-17 provides a beautiful watershed for such reservations:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Simply put, we should place not only our sin but also our drive to achieve success under the shelter of “if the Lord wills” (Deo Volente for you scholars). Rather than being a copout, submitting our dreams and aspirations to the sovereignty of God is evidence of genuine commitment.


*Feel free to check out our podcast for a more detailed discussion of this topic:




[i] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible exposition commentary (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996), in Logos Library System[CD-ROM].

[ii] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), in Logos Library System [CD-ROM].

[iii] Much thanks to Pastor Mark Driscoll for raising this very important distinction. 

The Ethics of Retaliation

All Christ-followers are fighters; they just know who the real enemy is. Ephesians 6:12 states, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Jesus puts this in practical terms. In the blood-soaked, Rome-dominated, dark world of the first century, He tells his followers “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). But the elephant in the room is: How do you shine for Christ in a twisted world full of selfish people who seem to get a buzz from making others’ lives into a living hell? Simply put, how do I let my light shine when I want to lay it aside so I can make use of both hands to jack up jerks who deserve what they have coming? Jesus’ words are very radical…“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

To be clear, Jesus isn’t saying getting ground and pounded is what we should all strive for in life or that martyrdom is to be sought after as a higher virtue (for a detailed treatment of whether or not Jesus is against self-defense or all use of force, check out the podcast). Rather, the driving thought seems to be that ministry begins the second mile

Refusing to be controlled by another person’s insults (the idea behind Jesus’ reference to being struck on the right cheek with the left hand), by returning grace rather than hatred is a tell-tale sign of genuine heart change. Our culture feeds on revenge. Without a culture of revenge no one would watch Reality TV which isn’t reality anyway. Revenge doesn’t have to be like cheesy 80’s Steven Seagal shoot em up fest. It can be through the tortuous means of slander or relational silence that screams rejection. Responding with the love of Christ in the face of irrational hatred profoundly confuses the enemy. Yes…the real enemy. Hell has no defense against the power of grace-driven forgiveness.

What makes this sort of retaliation against revenge possible? A firm faith in God as my defender makes it possible for me to not fight fire with fire. It is a firm reliance on the sovereignty of God and the transitory nature of human power to oppress. Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Genuine faith in God’s power to defend us requires a settled defiance of evil. It is a determined, teeth-gritting commitment to defy evil to its face and say, “you will not determine what I will become. I will not be your slave through bitterness and animosity. I will choke the very life out of you with the beautiful fragrance of forgiveness.” First Peter 2:23 says of Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” It’s not an MC Hammer-esque, ‘You can’t touch this” sort of arrogance. Rather, the refusal to respond with the vitriol of bitterness is an active, not passive, action of entrusting ourselves to our great defender. Another key in retaliating against the seductive voice of revenge is admitting that God can wield the sword of vengeance with far more skill than we ever could. Romans 12:19-21 reads, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Launching this kind of ordnance into the enemy lines is bound to cause confusion because cruel people do not understand grace or the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14) and yet grace may be the only thing to penetrate the cold and hardened heart of an enemy thus circumnavigating a hardened intellect. We think, “But it seems like they’re getting away with it! They need to pay!” They won’t and they do. Yet when you choose to retaliate against revenge by extending grace you are the one absorbing the penalty of injustice…and who does that sound like? Isn’t the Gospel that Jesus, the Innocent One, absorbed every ounce of God’s wrath that was rightfully intended for us? As R.G. Lee proclaimed, there will be “Payday Someday.”1 As difficult as it may be, let’s let God take care of vengeance and until that dreadful day comes, let’s strive for the repentance of our persecutors.  

*Check out the podcast for an full treatment of the ethics of retaliation*


1. R.G. Lee, “Payday Someday,”