A Simple “Yes” or “No” Will Do

“Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5.34-37).

It’s not uncommon to hear people say, “I swear by all that’s holy” or “I’ll swear on a stack of Bibles.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cuts right to the heart of why people swear oaths. He says they do it to impress others with their sincerity or intensity. The point is to get others to believe what they’re saying is credible by emphasizing it with “By God” or “God knows!” It’s simply a device to manipulate or intimidate, to control the conversation in one’s own favor.

But that’s an inherently wrong approach to take toward another person. The essence of swearing or making oaths is to try to use something – the name of God, for instance – in order to get others to believe you and let you have your own way. That’s wrong.

For those who are, as the beatitudes identify, poor in spirit, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and peaceable, – a simple “yes” or “no” will do.

 – grace to you all, and peace … Bill