As Jesus pressed on in his sermon that day, he dug deeper into the idea of commitment.
For followers of Jesus, our words should mean something.
Following on the heels of his word about divorce, he talks about taking oaths. It makes sense because he’s trying to illustrate just how important our word is. If a man pledges to love, honor, and protect his wife but then breaks that word by issuing a certificate of divorce for just any old reason, then his word means nothing. Could he not love her through the issue? Honor her despite disagreements? Protect her by remaining with her, instead of letting her become an outcast as a divorcee?
Yet, Jesus tells us here that taking an oath is not enough. Anyone can do that and obviously break it. No, our word should be our bond, so to speak. Here are his exact words on the matter:
Again, you have heard that it was said to our ancestors, “You must not break your oath, but you must keep your oaths to the Lord.” But I tell you, don’t take an oath at all: either by heaven, because it is God’s throne; or by the earth, because it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. But let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.Matthew 5:33-37 CSB
Followers of Christ have to be keepers of their word because Jesus kept his word.
When we are frivolous with our words, we’re following the ways of the prince of the ages—Satan, not Jesus. Don’t you see that in our world today? When was the last time you felt you could actually trust a person by his word?
The words of this world are empty promises.
Where do we stand as believers today? Is your word trustworthy or do you give it quickly and without thought?
We can’t offer more than a simple yes or no because we’re not in control.
Even a strong believer’s word can fail. We all fail, because, as Jesus said, we “cannot make a single hair white or black.” Only God’s word is sure. We give our answer, but we too will disappoint at some point in life. You tell your child yes you can do that, and then another gets sick, and you can’t fulfill your word. It happens, and thankfully Jesus understood that then and understands it now.
Our job is to think before we answer, avoid rash oaths and promises, and do our best to stay faithful to our word while recognizing we rely on grace when we fail.
Keep it simple because anything more is from the evil one. That’s Jesus’s gentle way of giving us a break, which is just another way of saying he’s showing us some grace.
Grace and Peace