“And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.” —Leviticus 19:12
“But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” —Matthew 5:37
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:33-37; 23:16-22
“To forswear means to swear falsely or perjure one’s self. Oaths taken in the name of the Lord were looked upon as binding and perjury of such oaths was strongly condemned by the law. Such phrases like ‘as the Lord liveth’ or ‘by the name of the Lord’ emphasize the sanctity of such oaths. Ryrie states: ‘Every oath contained an affirmation of promise of an appeal to God as the omniscient punisher of falsehoods, which made an oath binding…’
“All such oath-taking, Jesus would announce, was unnecessary if one were normally in the habit of telling the truth. Thus, His command was swear not at all. This does not have reference to cursing, as such, but to oath-taking. The Christian is not to take an oath by heaven, earth, nor the city of Jerusalem. He is not to swear on the basis of his own head or any other physical feature. He is to speak the truth in such a way that his ‘yes’ means yes and his ‘no’ means no…
“When you say yes make sure that that is what you mean. When you say no, make sure that also is what you mean. Mean what you say; say what you mean. Anything that is more than a simple affirmation of the truth cometh of evil. When we add an oath to our regular affirmation of the truth, we either admit that our normal conversation cannot be trusted, or that we are lowering ourselves to the level of a world which normally does not tell the truth…” —Liberty Bible Commentary, Jerry Falwell
- How serious is God about the truthfulness of our speech? Leviticus 19:12; Deuteronomy 23:21; Exodus 20:16; Psalm 34:12-13.
Note: “Forswear” comes from the Greek word epiorkeoo, which means to swear falsely or to perjure one’s self (Matthew 5:33).
- What insight does Matthew 23:16-22 give us regarding the Pharisees’ misuse and deception of swearing?
Note: “By the time of Christ, the Jews had developed an elaborate system of oath-taking, which often formed the basis of actual lying. For example, one might swear that he had told the truth according to the dome of the Temple, while another might swear by the gold on the dome of the Temple! In other words, there were stages of truth and thus also of falsehood within the system of taking oaths.” —Liberty Bible Commentary, Jerry Falwell
- Examine and discuss the reasons Jesus gives for not swearing, as referenced in Matthew 5:33-37. Could it be that swearing by these things meant nothing because we can’t “…make one hair white or black”?
Note: The fact that we “swear” does not make our word any more true. What makes our word true is follow through. Those who do what they say need only say “yes” or “no.” Nothing else is required.
- Why is it that our communication should only be yes and no? Ephesians 4:25; Psalm 101:7; Proverbs 21:6, 23.
- In what ways can we mimic the Pharisees’ deceptive communication and oaths in our day and age?
- When Jesus said we were not to swear at all, did He outlaw oaths? Consider Paul’s example in Acts 18:18 and 21:18-24.
As Christians, we should be people of integrity who do what we’ve committed to do. This week, examine your speech and determine if it’s truly “yea” and “nay.” Can people trust you to accomplish what you’ve promised? If not, repent and take steps to rid this sin in your life.