Let Your “Yes” Mean “Yes” and Your “No” Mean “No”
We do not normally think about it, but making a vow, taking an oath, or swearing is serious business for a Christian. A vow is a personal promise, for example a marriage vow. An oath is assuming an obligation which makes one liable to prosecution. For example, signing one’s name to a contract to buy a house, then failing to pay. An example of swearing is placing one’s hand on a bible and promising to tell the truth in court. Swearing also means cursing, but not in this scripture.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brought clarity and depth to the Pharisees’ interpretation of the law concerning vows, oaths, and swearing.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made’” (Matthew 5:33).
Vows, oaths, and swearing were allowed in the Old Testament (Deut. 10:10, Deut. 23:23, Numbers 30:2). The religious leaders of Jesus’s day taught the letter of the law – the truth. But they did not help the people measure the condition of their hearts.
‘But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matt 5:33-37).
Jesus is not prohibiting marriage vows, ordination vows, church membership covenants, signing contracts, and sworn testimony in court. He is prohibiting flippant vows to impress others that you are telling the truth.
- “If I’m not telling the truth may God strike me dead.”
- “I swear to God, I am telling the truth.”
- “I swear on a stack of Bibles.”
- “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
He is saying tell the truth and nothing but the truth, because anything else is from the devil. He is urging us to be promise keepers.
What happens if you make a promise and cannot keep it. For example, you signed a contract to buy a car, but you lost your job. You said “yes” but now you cannot pay. Don’t avoid the loan officers. Call them, explain the situation, and make arrangements for payment. If things get worse and you lose the car, you keep your integrity before God and man. Hold your head up. The unexpected happens, but you stay true. God sees your heart and will reward your integrity.
Share with us your understanding of vows, oaths, and swearing before and after reading Matthew 5:33-37. Join the conversation.
Dr. Dorothy J. Haire
Author & Blogger
Both church planter and pastor of Bread of Life Christian Church for the last 18 years, Dr. Haire is a beloved mother and successful author. Empowered to deliver the word of God to His people, Dr. Haire uses her digital platform to educate and develop Christian communities that are rooted in the word of Christ.