But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5:34-37
There are some passages in the Bible that are not as translucent to me as others. This is one of them. Possibly for others as well- there are many commentaries and opinions on this. I grew up watching courtroom dramas like Perry Mason and later Matlock. In fact, my own dad was a judge. Everyone gets up, puts their hand on the Bible and says “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”. Is this what Jesus is telling us not to do?
What came to mind when I read this verse today is that we should not swear we will do something, i.e claim to have the power to make it come to pass. ” I swear on a stack of Bibles I will be at 10th and Main on the 27th at 9 AM.” Why would this oath be wrong? It puts in power in my hands. It claims that I have control over the future, not God. It points to me, not to Him. That does indeed open the door to evil- in fact it invites evil right in on the coat tails of pride and arrogance. Better to say, as they do in my neck of the woods, “God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll meet you at … and if I can’t, I will call and let you know.”
If we live truthful, trustworthy lives giving the glory to God, won’t others see us as people who keep our word? Hopefully. There will always be those who doubt or misjudge. But for them, no oath, no matter on how many Bibles, would be meaningful. Maybe that is what Jesus was referring to in this passage as part of His sermons on the Mount.
Dear Lord- help me to live my life as blameless as possible. When I mess up. let me confess it to You and to those I offended and move on. Above all, let me reflect Your Truth – because You are truth. Let me acknowldge the future is in Your hands and all power is Yours, not mine. Let my Yes be Yes and my No be No because in all things, I acknowledge my authority comes from You. Amen