“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.”
---End of Scripture verses---
“Above all,” it is of supreme importance that Christians be people of their word. We should not have to be the kind of people that feel like we need to swear on a stack of Bibles in order to get someone to believe us. I have not drawn out the parallels between the general epistle of James and the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount in order to keep the commentary to a minimum (relatively speaking), and because the letter stands on its own just fine. But this is one of the many common subjects covered by the Lord in His sermon and His brother in his letter.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:33-37 – “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 a 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.”
Now, strictly speaking, there wasn’t anything wrong with taking solemn oaths. The Law allowed such vows, and, in certain cases required them. If anyone of us is required to appear before a court of civil law, we would be compelled to “swear” or “vow” or “promise” to tell the truth, and that would be completely appropriate. But that should be the exception and not the rule. If we continually speak truth in our hearts and truth with our lips most people will believe us at our word and God will accept us.
The Scribes of Jesus day thought they had found a loophole that got people around fulfilling the sacred vows that they had made. They taught that a person could “swear” and not be bound by his word as long as he did not invoke the name of the Lord. Jesus indicated such by stating the ancients said you must “fulfill your vows to the Lord.” But Jesus said, if you swear by heaven or earth or Jerusalem or a single hair on your head, you are still swearing by God and are bound to your vows. Every good thing that we could affirm an oath upon has been given by the Lord.
Friend, in the rare occasion we feel that we must make a vow unto the Lord, we had better be serious about dutifully and promptly fulfilling it. “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6)
Please read James 5:13-15 for tomorrow.
Have a blessed day!
- Louie Taylor