Matthew 5:33-37 (ESV)
“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.”
“Keep Your Word”
“Again,” says Jesus! There is more to what you have heard. There is more to what was said to those of old. I Am More and I say to you . . .
After pulling the thread of the false teaching and understanding of the scribes and Pharisees surrounding murder, reconciling differences with others, adultery, and divorce, Jesus continues unravelling their errors – this time in relation to oaths.
For the majority of people today, the only time we give an oath is in a court of law. Our sworn testimony is a commitment that what we are saying is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God. If it is discovered that we have lied under oath, we can be charged with perjury.
Politicians also take oaths but is truth what most are known for?
As Christians, what are we known for? Certainly love for God and others should be at the top of that list. We hope that when people think of us, the first thing that comes to mind is love. This love is expressed in our compassion, empathy and grace towards them. It’s an action that others receive and experience from us. This love comes from God, through us, for others.
How tragic when followers of Christ are not people of their word!
To help us understand Matthew 5:33-37 in context and what Jesus is referencing in today’s text, let’s look at what Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:16-22.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.”
Jesus tells His disciples to not make oaths and to just be people of their word. Don’t make empty promises. Let your word be trusted without the need for all this swearing and oath taking.
Psalm 15:1-5 says, “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.”
Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
If we are people of our word, swearing by something becomes unnecessary.
It’s so important that as followers of Christ, we keep our word. We can’t be known for double talk or saying one thing and doing another. People need to be able to trust what we say, otherwise, how will they ever listen to us about the hope we have in Christ?
The Pharisees “relaxed” the command from perjury to just profanity. “False swearing” according to them was simply a profane use of God’s name instead of a dishonest pledge using the Lord’s name in vain. Then in typical form, they construct a list of “smoke and mirror” rules and regulations designed to give themselves plenty of rungs on the obedience ladder to climb.
As I consider the placement of this teaching on oaths, right after Jesus teaches on divorce, I am once again struck by the impact. When you take wedding vows, those are to be taken seriously. If you pledge marriage to someone, it’s for life. If you have any hesitation? Don’t get married. Instead, people break their vows without even a thought. Jesus tells His followers to be people of our word – specifically “Yes” or “No” and not rely on legal loopholes and provisions to get out of your pledge.
Oh, how it dishonors our Lord that so many who claim to know Christ and publicly identify as Christians get divorced. What does this say about our “word” to a watching world?
Father, help me be a person whose words can be trusted. Keep me from making promises I can’t deliver on and prompt me to say “No” when appropriate. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Thank you for reading my Daily Bible Journal!
Reading, reflecting and writing from the Bible has so radically impacted my life in Christ, it’s as if I’ve been on auto-pilot when reading the Bible in the past. There’s something about “sitting with the text” and through prayerful reflection, sharing what comes to mind. Because I’m posting online for others to read, I consider my words carefully and try to be clear and accurate.
This daily process enhances my understanding of God’s Word and embeds it into my conscience. It literally gets “hidden in my heart!”
I hope this encourages others to be in God’s Word every day.
For God’s Glory,