Author: Ron Graham

Sermon on Mount

—Matthew 5

This page continues to study Matthew chapter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount.

1 Taking Oaths

Our Lord’s teaching regarding swearing (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12) is often thought to forbid our taking an oath in court or swearing an affidavit. Others think it no more than saying, "I assure you before God that I am not lying" (Galatians 1:20).

God himself made an oath as a foundation of our faith. If anybody might have let their yes be yes, surely God might have, for "it is impossible for Him to lie". But wanting to fully assure us, God did something most exceptional: he "confirmed his counsel with an oath" (Hebrews 6:13-20).

There are three kinds of swearing, however, which we certainly ought not to do at all, and the command, "Swear not at all" definitely refers to these.

Nothing Less than God

Swearing by anything less than God is wrong. Jesus speaks of swearing by such things as Jerusalem, or one’s own head. He objects that, whatever one swears by, it belongs to God anyway. Would you say good afternoon to a person’s gumboots instead of acknowledging the person? Then why insult God by swearing by his belongings rather than by him? Perhaps, having sworn by something less, people think they are less bound?

Idle Swearing

There's so much rivial and pointless swearingsuch as, “Good footy game Saturday?” “Yeah, bloody oath!”. This kind of thing borders on taking God’s name in vain. Why not simply say, “Yes” ?  "For every idle word that men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your wordsyou will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37)

Binding Yourself Foolishly

The foolishness of binding yourself by oath to fulfill commitments is seen in Acts 23:12-24. James says, "You do not know what will happen tomorrow... You ought to say, 'If the Lord wills we shall do this or that'" (James 4:13-17). By bringing integrity back into one’s word, one fights "the father of lies" (John 8:44-45). Swearing shows a lack of trust and truth.

2 Deep Thought

Deep Thought

These questions are for you to think about and discuss. Other parts of this lesson may help you with the answers.

1. Is Matt 5:33-37 more about (A) not taking oaths or (B) being honest, truthful, sincere, trustworthy, reputable?

2. When a person swears by his head, by Jerusalem, by heaven, or some such other thing, what is that person hoping to avoid? Why doesn’t he succeed?

3. While we should be satisfied to simply tell the truth and let our word be our bond, what if an authority is not satisfied with our word alone, and presses us to take an oath?

4. When we speak without an oath, do we speak in the presence of God just as much as if we spoke under oath? If so, aren’t we bound by our word without oath as much as if we had sworn an oath?

5. If the answer to deep thought 4 is yes, then what point would there be in swearing an oath, and when there is no point, then wouldn’t we be taking the Lord’s name in vain?