Jesus Teaches on Oaths
Years ago, when my father-in-law had to go to court, he was asked to swear that he would tell the truth. He refused. His belief was that it was wrong for him to swear on a Bible so the judge allowed him to affirm that his ‘yes’ would be ‘yes’ and his ‘no’ be ‘no’.
People swear an oath for a variety of reasons. They swear on their mother’s grave, on their children’s life, on the Bible, or on any number of things that are supposed to signify that they mean what they say. Yet, we know that people perjure themselves all the time in court, and that while someone is swearing on their mother’s grave, he has his fingers crossed behind his back, all the while telling an outright lie.
Wikipedia defines an oath as “a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one’s future action or behavior; a sworn declaration that one will tell the truth, especially in a court of law.” He promises to pay back a loan, or give a partner a share of the profits. She promises a neighbor that she’ll reciprocate when she borrows a bowl of sugar. There is any number of ways that we make, but later break, promises today. Our word is no longer something that people can count on.
Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, spoke directly to this issue. It was important to Him that Christians, especially, be true to their word and not by taking some silly oath. In Matthew 5, verses 33 – 37, He states, “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”
It can’t be any clearer than that. Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Jesus even goes so far as to say anything beyond that is from the evil one. Could it be that even the enemy of the people knows that we don’t keep oaths and so besmirch our own name and the name of the One we follow?
Contracts, legal documents signed by a plethora of lawyers, are broken all the time. What makes us think that by swearing an oath, we’re any more committed? When was the last time you accepted the word of someone, who vowed to do what it was he said he would do, only to find out that his word could not be trusted? How did that make you feel? Did this act erode trust?
God wants us to trust Him, and he wants us to be able to trust the people who walk with us on this journey of faith. The enemy wants us to be distrustful, cautious, suspecting, and untrustworthy. Where will you walk? How will you behave? Will your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your “no’ be ‘no’? Only you can decide and then stick with the promise of that decision.
For further study: Matt.26:72-74