33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
What does it mean to “forswear” thyself? This means to swear falsely. The idea is that we should not perform false oaths to God, but instead, we should perform our oaths.
Jesus instructs that to make any oath to God can result in evil, so we should not do this at all. We should also refrain from taking oaths that bet our lives against the word or action we intend to keep. Instead, we should live and speak truthfully and with simplicity. Yes means yes. No means no.
“I am on earth and God is in heaven. Therefore, let my words be few.”
We do not always know what God has in store and He is the One who is in control. How can we make an oath to God stating that we will or will not do something? Do we know what the future holds? How can we make an oath on our own heads? Do we know where our lives might go? Do we know whether we might live another day or not?
“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.”
This is one good reason not to make oaths to God. We simply lack the foresight to make wise choices in this regard.
Another good reason is that we might have a good intention but we lack the ability to follow through, then we are liars and we have to bear the shame of defeat or a feeling of rejection from God because we took something up that was not meant for us. We took the high seat instead of the low seat.
“But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may tell you, ‘Friend, move up higher’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Another good reason is that we might not know what we are asking for. As Jesus once said to some of His disciples that wanted to be great in His Kingdom, “can you be baptized with the baptism I am baptized of?”
Sometimes in our hasty desire to be pleasing to God or to take on something meaningful, we make commitments without realizing the full context of what our commitment might mean.
What should we do then once we become aware of the implications of our oaths? Do we take it back, tuck tail, and run from what we foolishly and perhaps hastily vowed to our Lord? Or do we seek Him so that He might strengthen us to perform all that we said we would do? Do we plead for forgiveness and learn a lesson in humility?
I suppose it depends on the unique context of the situation for each person.
Or do we consider that God has ordained all things—even our foolish oaths—and in the end He is still in control and all things work together for the good of those who are called for His purposes?
Jesus’s instruction to live a life in simple faithfulness as one whose yes is yes and no is no makes good sense and can certainly keep people from the evil that could fall upon them from making false oaths to God or upon their own lives.
However, if we find ourselves in this situation, though we are foolish, this was God’s doing in the first place and He will see to it that we can follow through—at least with the oaths that were placed in our heart by His Spirit—who cannot lie. Our own desires will come to nothing and we are humbled by that. However, all that He has ordained will come to pass and nothing can stop it.
This article is part of a series that considers the Parables of Jesus. Right now, we are looking at the statements Jesus made during His Sermon on the Mount, to which He referenced in His Parable of the Building on Rock and Sand. Visit the link for quick access to all articles written within this series. Subscribe for notifications of future posts.