A Rash Oath (5:4)
Scripture is clear a rash oath is wrong whether the sworn action is good or evil. Rashness is in opposition to the character of God and, therefore, should not be in the character of God’s people. To make a rash oath is to make an impulsive promise of action/reaction based upon an intense emotion (i.e., anger, fear, jealousy).
“Oh! That’s not a threat. That’s a promise!” is the common reply when someone is called on the carpet about making a rash oath. Rather than repenting of their sinful response, they multiply their folly. Instead of allowing room for God’s wrath, submitting to God’s providence, or seeking God’s wisdom, the individual continues to play God assuming that without thought or reflection he/she knows the precise prescription for justice.
Reflection: What kinds of situations most tempt you to make rash oaths? Do these situations center on money, relationships, reputation, influence, or something else? As you examine yourself in this way, recognize that you may well be “right” in your vowed action but “wrong” in your heart motive of revenge or control. Allow the challenge of that thought to push you towards a greater trust in God.
Can We Sin Unintentionally?
(BCH_Leviticus_5_handout for Printable PDF Handout)
At first glance, reading Leviticus 5:14-16 would seem to indicate that we can sin unintentionally. With a bit of reflection, however, we might be more cautious in this assessment. The reference of “unintentional sins” in this passage has to do with ceremonial uncleanness. These laws were abolished by Christ (Luke 11:37-41). We no longer have fear if touching a vehicle which ran over a dead animal in the church parking lot puts us in bad standing before God as we enter the sanctuary.
In the New Testament sin was defined by heart more than action. This is not an excuse, but it does reveal that sin and redemption are rooted in worship not ceremony. We sin when we love, trust, fear, adore, rely on, hope in, or long for something more than God. Another way to say this is that we never break the Second Great Commandment without first breaking the First Great Commandment.
As New Testament believers, when we sin (whether there was malice aforethought or not) we are revealing that our heart was not fully loving/trusting God. If we are honest, we all do this quite often. So while our sin was not cognitively intentional, it still fully reveals the condition of our heart not just the clumsiness near unclean things.
While this should cause us to resist the urge to blame-shift (which has been a strong tendency since Genesis 3), it need not cause us to fear or live in shame. In Leviticus being unclean temporarily limited one’s access to God and God’s people. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, we do not live with those consequences to our sin.
Part of our continual growth as Christians is seeing the constant implications of loving/trusting God in the details of our life. Doubtless, as believers still in process, we miss many of these opportunities to love/trust God and, thereby, commit many sins. However, these still reveal our heart. Yet we can repent to a loving Father who is eager to forgive. The freeness of His grace makes even our repentance an act of worship when we see it as another opportunity to love/trust God.
Making Wrongs Right (6:1-4)
What am I supposed to do when I find a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk? This passage gives us the heart with which to answer this question – make every effort to ensure that everyone gets the money they have earned. The larger point of this passage is to ensure that our actions do not in any way defraud someone of their money.
At first this may sound like it is rooted in materialism. But consider that most every economy in history has operated on the same basic exchanges. We trade hours for dollars and dollars for stuff. Too often we only think of the dollars and stuff without considering the implication of the hours. To steal money is to steal life; not in the sense of murder, but precious time.
Reflection: Consider a caveat to the last statement, “To spend money is to spend life.” It is not a leap to say, “Spending is worship.” Dollars are a currency form of hours. How does this change the way you think of money (yours and others), budgets (personal and church), and everyday commerce? Financial integrity is not just about protecting one another’s assets, but also about honoring the hours/days someone has already lived.