Summary: This message focuses on swearing an oath and the use of profanity.
Sacrifices Part 5: Multiple Choice or True/False Christian Living
For the last couple of weeks we have been discussing how we live our lives as Christians as either as a multiple choice question or as a true or false question. The multiple choice person looks upon every situation as if there are multiple right answers to the problem. The true or false person lives as if every situation has only one right response for a Christian. The two groups often disagree and both have pretty good arguments as to why their way of living is the best way. This morning we will continue with the series and I hope that you are starting to understand which type of question best describes your way of living. Please turn to Exodus the twentieth chapter as we will deal only with swearing and making an oath in this message. (And to save a tree, I will not be utilizing the pre-test.)
I. Swearing / Making An Oath
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7
Swearing has two definitions that we will focus on this morning. The first definition is “to make a solemn declaration with an appeal to God to confirm it; to make a solemn promise or vow.” The second definition is “to use profane language; curse.” Both of these definitions will be appropriate for what we will look at pertaining to swearing an oath and swearing in general. So let’s begin with the swearing of an oath.
When you watch a court show on TV, when they bring a witness to the witness stand, they “swear” them in. One of the statements they make goes like this: “Do you swear/promise to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?” This question is used because in times past people would not lie after swearing to tell the truth in the name of God. However, today regardless of how the oath is given, people will still lie on the stand. Our society acknowledges God in this statement, even to the person who does not believe in God. But the problem is that this whole process causes us to violate what the word of God says. How many times have you been in conversation with someone and in the heat of the conversation someone questions whether or not you are telling the truth? The common response to this question is this: “I swear to you I am telling you the truth!” Using this statement is the acceptable “proof” that someone is telling the absolutely truth. We have perfected this statement to the point that our body language changes when we use this statement and often encourages the other person to believe us. We often give the shocked look of unbelief that what we are saying is even being questioned. During biblical times giving an oath was the strongest confession you could make as it was completely binding. People did not take these oaths lightly. When you swore to someone that you would do something it was binding. Oftentimes people would add additional credibility to the oath by putting God’s name in it. Again, this was done to convince the other person that they could believe what was being said or promised, even if the person making the promise knew they would not keep it.
In Exodus 20:7, God said that we should not take His Name in vain and punishment awaits those that do. Because of the commonality in which people made oaths and used God’s name to confirm or prove them, God told them stop doing it – period. At the time that Moses gave them the command, the multiple choice thinkers interpreted that it was okay to use God’s name in an oath as long as you upheld what you were saying or promising. In other words, if they used God’s name when they swore an oath and they kept it that was okay. They believed that it was only a sin if they made an oath using God’s name and did not keep it. If you used God’s name and did not keep the oath/promise, then and only then were you taking God’s name in vain; as in using God’s name with false oath, one that was not kept. Any promise made using God’s name had to be kept; there were no excuses for not keeping one. The practice of using God’s name in an oath continued throughout the Old Testament. However, when Jesus addressed this, He clarified what the true meaning of what God desired from us. Turn to Matthew the fifth chapter.
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or “No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” Matthew 5:33-37