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Jesus says: “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:33-37)
Here is another misapplication of their religious teachings and practices—making oaths or vows they did not intend to keep. They made many vows (promises), but found ways to get around them. This was not in legal situations, but in ordinary conversation.
Jesus is referring to: 1—Swearing that something is true when one knows it is false. 2—Failing to do what one has promised under oath.
In the Old Testament, if you would swear something and bring God’s name into it, it better be the truth and you better do what you said—fulfill your vow. The Pharisaical practice was to trick people (usually the outsiders) by swearing to do something or that something was true “by heaven” or “by God’s creation (earth)” or “by Jerusalem.” The trick might be to swear “by the Holy Temple” that you will do this or that. But, among the Pharisees they knew that you had to swear “by the gold in the Holy Temple”, then it was binding. They were caught up in getting around doing what they said they would do by the technical use of terms. They also felt that God, Himself, was not involved in these transactions and therefore they were not binding.
Jesus had 4 things to counter this action: FIRST—God cannot be separated from life’s transactions. Heaven is God’s throne, earth is God’s footstool and Jerusalem is the Messiah’s Capitol.
SECOND—Don’t make vows you don’t intend to keep.
THIRD—Don’t make vows that depend upon your control as if you are in control. God is still in ultimate control—”if God wills”.
FOURTH—Fulfill your vows to the Lord by being clear with your words—yes means yes and no means no.
Here are three practical applications:
- Always speak the truth and you won’t need to hedge with some sort of
oath. I think it’s funny when a person prefaces a statement with “I’m going to tell you the truth!” What was he saying prior to this? Lies? 2. When you make an oath, keep it. 3. Do not make someone else responsible for your statements.
God is still on His throne today, so talk like it!