Summary: This sermon is part of the Sermon on the Mount series dealing with Oaths, Retribution, and Love.
Sermon on the Mount
“Oaths, Retribution, and Love”
Mary Poppins, after her first adventure with Jane and Michael Banks when they promised to be good so that she would never leave. She said, “That’s a pie crust promise; easily made, easily broken.”
With this statement in mind lets’ take a look at this first section of tonight’s message.
Read Matthew 5:33-37
Actually what Jesus quotes them saying is not found in the Bible; instead it’s a compilation of various Old Testament scriptures concerning oaths. Let’s take a look at these.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7 NKJV)
“And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:12 NKJV)
“If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:2 NKJV)’’
“When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you.” (Deuteronomy 23:21)
The law says that if someone makes a vow or an oath and breaks it, it’s tantamount to swearing falsely and committing perjury. And not only are they showing a lack of reverence to God; but they were also guilty and liable for whatever they promised.
Because of this the people of Israel created an elaborate set of rules and regulations by which oaths were to be given.
Today we say, “I swear to God,” “I’m dying if I’m lying,” or “May lighting strike me if I’m lying.” Personally I’d back away as soon as soon as I can.
Back in Jesus’ day they developed elaborate formulas limiting their exposure and the consequences attached. We can see these elaborate formulas in Matthew 23.
Read Matthew 23:16-22
Jesus is pronouncing Gods’ displeasure at the Pharisee’s hypocrisy, especially in the taking of oaths.
They were trying to find ways where they could swear oaths and limit their liability. What we see is that it depended solely upon how closely it related to God’s name. What Jesus did, however, was to point out that no matter what they swore upon, it still referenced God.
(Back to Matthew 5 and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount)
Heaven is God’s throne, earth is God’s footstool, and Jerusalem is His holy city. Even the hairs on our head are out of our control, not matter what Miss Clairol says. It may cover, but it cannot change. Ultimately it’s all under God’s control.
What Jesus is saying is that no matter what formula is used, all vows and oaths are completely binding.
It seems that making a vow wasn’t done to verity the truth, as it was to avoid the consequences or avoid fulfilling what was promised. Basically taking oaths back then was a clever method of deceit and lies, which is why Jesus continually called them hypocrites.
What Jesus did, as He has been doing, is taking them back to the original intent of the law saying, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’”
The original intent was that a person’s word was their bond. A person’s character and reputation hinges upon their words.
Our word is our bond, and no one should ever question the honesty and truthfulness of what we say, because it should be said of us that our word is sufficient. We should mean what we say and say what we mean.
Our word should be all that’s needed. Our words should contain nothing but the truth. Jesus said, anything less than the truth comes from the author of lies and deception, Satan.
John Stott said, “Swearing (taking oaths,) is really a pathetic confession of our own dishonesty.” And A.M. Hunter said, “Oaths arise because men are so often liars.”
What Jesus was saying by simplifying the language to yes and no is that a simple word is enough, that our language or words need no elaboration. If you had good time say, “I had a good time,” without all the adjectives attached.
This particular verse of letting your yes be yes and your no be no and not taking a vow has been used by some not to take a oath in a court of law when they ask you to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God while laying your hand upon a Bible.
But does Scripture support this view of not taking oaths?
First we see the Lord took an oath.