READ: Matthew 5:33-37
- The “swearing” to which Jesus refers is the taking of vows or oaths. It’s very similar to what we do in a court of law. We “swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” It’s the adding of “God” that makes it an oath. We are calling on a higher authority to give our words more credibility. Supposedly that keeps us from bearing a false testimony.
- The Jews were known for making oaths. In fact, the law to which Jesus refers is probably a combination of Leviticus 19:12 and Numbers 30:2. Those verses remind us that when we make a promise on God’s name or to God, we must not break that vow. We profane God’s name when we swear on that name and then fail to honor the vow we’ve taken. Deuteronomy 23:21, echoes the text in Numbers as it reminds us that we are accountable for our oaths.
- Probably the most famous story of taking a foolish oath is known as “Jephthah’s vow.” We read Jephthah’s story in Judges 11. In verse 29 he vows that if he wins the battle against the Ammonites then he will offer as a sacrifice the first thing to come out of his door. It seems like a foolish vow from the beginning. Sure enough, he wins and his daughter comes out to greet the heroic leader. Jephthah mournfully keeps his vow and sacrifices his daughter. His story reminds us of the power of our words.
- What foolish promises have you made that you felt obligated to keep?
- Do you ever swear to your children that if they don’t stop some activity you’ll “throw them out the window” or some other such foolish thing? Do you do it?
- Why do you think Jesus warned us so strongly to be careful with our vows/oaths?
PRAY: Commit to being careful in your speech. Pray that you are mindful of the promises you make. Thank God for His grace for those moments in which we so clearly fail.