Oaths • Devotion 6

Transformative Power
Ferdinand Sanders

I have wondered what it actually means when someone says things like, “I give you my word” or “I swear on my life?” Am I the only one whose radar goes off when people have to tack on some additional arbitrary credibility to their words? Growing up, my father climbed the sales ladder in the automotive industry and valued a solid answer (even if the answer was “I don’t know”) over a guess or a made-up answer. My brother and I were taught to be men of our word, and that you do not go back on something or someone after you shake hands. Contracts, oaths, and a gentleman’s agreement are all only as valid as the one who is to uphold them.

Almost in the same way that Jesus Himself is the “new covenant” (or means in which we receive salvation) which was different from the means found in the Old Testament. We see Jesus expound on this topic in Matthew 5:33-37. These verses in theory add, expound, or even substitute the teachings of the Old Testament Hebrew Law. We see from the Ten Commandments in Exodus chapter 20, that we are not to take the Lord’s name in vain. In Matthew, Jesus dives deeper and says that not only are we not to make an oath against God - but adds Heaven, Earth, Jerusalem, or even our own head. I absolutely love how Jesus puts it too, as He is basically saying that everything is God’s Kingdom or domain anyways - what value or collateral can we even put up against God; it is all already His!

If I can, I would like to present that there are a few ways that we can read the intent of this passage of Scripture and apply it in our lives. The first layer would be to read this passage quite literally and come to the conclusion that Christians should not swear to any oath whatsoever. The basis for this is we can see literally three verses earlier in Matthew 5:30, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” I would argue that we may be called deeper than simply a blind or brainless obedience. The second layer would be to read and conclude, “Oaths are okay as long as we do not swear on God and that we always live up to them.” Again, while I would not say “wrong,” I actually think we miss the point entirely if we do not let this passage infiltrate us at our core.

So then, what is the message here? Are we allowed to take oaths or swear on tangible things? Ultimately, we are being called to be credible and accountable men and women. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (verse 37). What good are someone’s words if their actions say another? Who does not want to surround themselves with people that they can trust and count on, but are we holding ourselves to the same standards?

Though I do not mean to imply that somehow we, as people, add or give the message of the Gospel its transformative power, I cannot help but think, what message do we really convey when we represent, preach, and proclaim the Gospel if our lives are not evidence of transformation? I pray that not only will our “yes be yes” and “no be no,” but that our lives would be an unwavering testimony of the transformative power of Jesus Christ.

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