“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” - Matthew 5:33-37
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us to tell the truth clearly, simply, and plainly. He also strongly rebukes the Jewish spiritual leaders carrying on an elaborate tradition of oath swearing. They would swear by things they found important or holy, like the Temple, by heaven, by the earth, by Jerusalem. The system became very complicated as the oaths would be more or less binding depending on the things they swore on.
In the passage, Jesus makes it clear that everything in the universe and this world belongs to God. It is dishonoring to swear by them and absurd because we really don’t have control over them. Jesus tells us to mean what we say and to simply tell the truth with a “yes” or a “no.”
In contrast to the complicated and unclear tradition of oath making, Jesus is teaching His disciples to be people of the Word and people of their word, no matter what it costs us personally. As we grow in discipleship, becoming more and more like Jesus, we should be careful to never mislead anyone, but instead be trustworthy and truthful.
How does your culture approach making promises and swearing oaths? If you lived out Jesus’ teaching about simply telling the truth, how would it impact the people around you?
Take a moment to pray, thanking God that He is always true to His Word. Ask forgiveness for times you have not been completely truthful and ask to help you always be true to your word.
This post is adapted from a lesson of the Mini Bible College, an online study of the whole Bible. We highly recommend their audio resources and written materials, available in many languages, to anyone who wants a stronger understanding of the Bible.