Oaths • Devotion 3

I Promise
Mitchell Holmes

Start by reading Matthew 5:33-37.

Oaths are a funny thing. We often feel that when someone says that they swear to something, it means that it carries more weight. It makes sense, right? When someone says, “I will get this done for you by 3:00, I swear!” it seems to convey that they have a true intention to complete the task by that designated time. We feel as if their oath makes it weightier and more impactful than if they had left it out.
Today’s passage reveals to us that swearing and making oaths to something should be done with great caution. This passage becomes a little bit clearer when we realize that it is in reference to the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. The Pharisees of those days were using fancy rhetoric and large words to swear and make oaths that they had no intentions of fulfilling. They were fooling people with their promises and taking advantage of their status to confuse people.

What Jesus is doing in this passage is clarifying something that was causing confusion. Everyone knew that it was against the law of God to swear by His name. So, what people had taken to doing was swearing by any other name; they would swear by the land they were on, or on their own wellbeing. In our own lives, we have probably heard something akin to “I swear on my mother’s life!” Jesus is correcting this behavior here and saying that swearing by these things is no better than swearing by the name of God. Everything that has ever existed solely exists because of God. Everything is His. By swearing on anything, you are swearing on God’s name.

Jesus then goes on to say that your word should be as simple as the words you say. When you have to swear to something or make an oath just to get someone to believe you, it tells everyone that there is no weight behind your words, therefore you must make some promise to reassure people of the truthfulness of your language.

This does not mean that we are never allowed to make promises or swear to things. Jesus Himself does this in Matthew 26:63-64, “But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” The High Priest in this passage places Jesus under oath and demands to know if He is in fact the Christ and Jesus swears it to be the truth. Making an oath, promising something, or swearing to something carries a lot of weight and Jesus is asking us to not abuse them.

There are oaths that are even glorifying to God. When you select a spouse to marry, when you put the ring on their finger, you are making an oath before God that you are committed to that person. That oath is a sacred promise, not to be taken lightly. It is glorifying to God because He is the One that designed it and made it into the perfect union.

I challenge you, in your everyday life, to pay attention to the vocabulary that you are using. Respect the sanctity of an oath and tread carefully before making a commitment of that caliber. Glorify God in the way that you speak and recognize that we have the ability to point to God in something as simple as our vocabulary.

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