Oaths • Devotion 5

Out of Our Control
Rich Sawicki

Today we are going to talk about taking oaths. When I hear this it sounds very formal to me, but it was a custom back in the day to give your word as a verbal contract. Some oaths you have heard or said yourself, might sound something like this:

• I swear to God
• I swear on my kids
• I swear on my grandmother’s grave

When people say these things it is usually because they really want someone to believe them or they are afraid for some reason others will not believe them.

What does it mean to take an oath? According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of an oath is a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one’s future action or behavior.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:33 that we should not take oaths lightly. Jesus says, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 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 5:33-37).

The reason Jesus warns us to avoid oaths is that we are human (sinners) and can easily break them without even meaning to. There are strong consequences when you do break them. When we break an oath or promise, it is just like lying.

We have all experienced the results of broken promises. Maybe you have had someone break a promise to you or maybe you have broken a promise to someone else. It may have been by accident or on purpose, but the results are basically the same. When other people know that you have broken an oath, a vow, or a promise, it makes them question you. You become untrustworthy. A broken promise is a lie. Satan is called the father of lies. We do not want him as our father.

We can make a promise, but that does not mean we will be able to keep it. Nothing is actually in our control. You cannot swear by God because you cannot control Him.

It is dangerous to promise to take our kids to see a movie on a specific day and time. Things can get out of our control. The car could break down, a family emergency could come up, or the power goes out at the theater. All things are completely out of our control. We would have to break our promise. Jesus was teaching us that words have consequences and we need to choose them wisely.

He knows that we were created in the image of God. God is holy. We are called to resemble and behave like children of God. This means we are to choose our own words wisely and behave in a holy manner that is pleasing to God the Father. Jesus was the Living Word that came to dwell among us. He knows the damage sin causes in our lives through broken relationships with people, and ultimately with God. When you break a promise you not only disappoint the person you broke the promise to, but you have to deal with the shame you should feel from having sinned.

Jesus came to die on the cross so we would not have to live with guilt or shame anymore. He wants us to live in a way that we do not need to take an oath in order for people to believe us. The kids will still get to see the movie.

You could have simply said, “Yes, we will try to go see that movie.” You would have avoided having to break a promise and feeling like you let your kids down.

You know that they are going to ask daily about the movie until you take them, but this is a good opportunity to practice saying no. Saying no is sometimes harder than saying yes and that is where we tend to get ourselves in trouble.

“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No;’ anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37

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