No Swearing!

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Matthew 5:33-37

It was the Jewish custom to swear an oath to ensure that a person would keep his word in making a promise. This was not something that God was crazy about; rather it was more of a divine concession to the reality of our fallen state in this world when it came to the provisions for oaths in the Law. It was though a person was admitting that what he said may or may not true, unless he “swore”, much like it was among the boys I knew as a child; if I “swear” it’s true, then I must be really serious, but if I didn’t “swear it” it might be a lie.

Jesus wants no part of this kind of thinking in the Kingdom; everything we say is to be true; there is no place whatsoever for falsehood as a follower of Christ, so there will be no “swearing” necessary. More than anything else, these verses call all of us to be men and women of integrity and faithfulness, as God is integrity and faithfulness.

I wonder what things would look like in the here and now if we took this injunction to heart!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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8 Responses to No Swearing!

  1. Wally Fry says:

    James had some things to say about that very subject if I recall.

    James 5:12
    “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.”

    Don, this is my most favorite series you have done since I have been around here; I am really enjoying it and learning a LOT! Thanks for it

  2. paulfg says:

    This one always tugs my curiosity: “I swear I will – on my mother’s life – cross my heart and hope to die” has always been the essence of this one for me as stated …

    “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

    And that makes perfect sense. Yes I will, No I will not.

    But it seems to have become all embracing: all the “rude words” and “ripe exclamations” also wrapped up in this one. Not sure that is what Jesus meant. And I have yet to meet anyone who has never uttered – or thought! – one such word in their lives. But publicly? Good Christians we – never shall such a word be uttered (in your/my hearing) – God says that is a sin! And another tranche of society is excluded from God and Love (and we good Christians continue to lapse when no one is in ear-shot – or “thought-shot”).

    • Don Merritt says:

      I can’t see any real way to use this passage to condemn using foul language; it just isn’t what Jesus is talking about here. With that said, there are other passages that do deal with such things, and yes, we need to get some control over what comes out of our mouths. To be honest and reasonably fair, every “bad” word in the English language has come out of my mouth at one time or another… OK maybe more than once. For me this really happens when I hang around with politicians, the most foul-mouthed folks I’ve ever met; I quickly sound the same way. I’d prefer not to be that way, not because I am more righteous than anybody else, not because I think anyone who hears me will be scarred for life, and certainly not because I think God is looking for an excuse to smite me.

      It just isn’t necessary.

      Oh, and besides, if some one or some thing has really gotten under my skin, it’s much more fun to use “big words” than “bad words” because then you get to watch the other guy try to figure out what you just called hum! 🙂

  3. It would depend on what you mean by “always” telling the truth. In many things it would help, but carried to extreme we would, as a society, collapse. Human relations are dependent on what we commonly refer to as “little white lies”:

    Yes, dear, your new hairstyle looks good.
    No, honey, your boss shouldn’t have treated you that way.

    Imagine, with people’s sensitive nature, how quickly relationships would dissolve if everyone was totally honest in all dealings.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Interesting observation; it makes me chuckle just a bit…

      When my wife asks those questions, I answer truthfully, if diplomatically, and when I ask them, I expect the truth. If I don’t want the truth, i don’t ask. 🙂

      If somebody flipped a switch and society was told the truth about everything, it would require that we grow up quite a bit, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing in the end… but then of course if that included government officials we might have a revolution first! 🙂

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