Reading the Word
Matthew 5:33–37 (ESV)
33 “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.
Understanding and Applying the Word
In this passage Jesus brought up the issue of oaths. In the Old Testament, a person was permitted to take a vow as long as it was done in truthfulness and not falsely. The purpose of vows then were much the same as they are now: to guarantee that a person would follow through with an obligation. This is at the heart of the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain found in Exodus 20:7.
In Jesus’ time on earth, it was common for people to take vows with no intention of keeping them. This was pointed out by Jesus in a confrontation with the Pharisees in Matthew 23:16-22. So, in our passage today Jesus stresses that truthfulness is the thing God desires. We should keep our word and vows should not be necessary.
In our world today, we live daily with our guard up against scams and those who would like to take advantage of us. In many of the schemes, the other person makes promises that they have no intention of actually fulfilling, even though they have made promises to do so. We also see those who enter into contracts with others and then try to break those contract through loopholes and technicalities.
As Christians, we should be known for our honesty and truthfulness. When we say we will do something, we should do it. When we obligate ourselves in some way, we should fulfill our obligations. Our “yes” should mean “yes” and our “no” should mean “no.” Let us always look to do what is right in the eyes of our Lord.
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