Tag Archives: Swearing

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

 

A Simple “Yes” Will Do

We hear people say, “I swear by all that’s holy” or “I’ll swear on a stack of Bibles.” Stack of BiblesWorse still, we hear them invoke God to damn this or that – to cry out in expletive, “Jeeeeezuss Kuuriiist!” Ever wonder why? A bad habit to be sure. But there is something deeper.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5.33-37) Jesus cuts right to the heart of why people swear oaths. He says people do it to impress others with their sincerity or intensity. The point is to get others to believe what you’re saying by emphasizing it with a “By God” or “God knows!” It’s simply a device to manipulate or intimidate, to control the conversation in one’s own favor.

The problem with “swearing” or making oaths is not just that it involves taking the name of God in vain or using it lightly without love or respect for Him. It’s that it’s an inherently wrong approach to take toward another human being. The essence of swearing or making oaths is to try to use something – the name of God for instance – that is irrelevant to the issue at hand in order to get others to believe you and let you have your own way. That’s wrong. It’s selfish and self-centered. It is unlike God. It violates the righteousness – sincerity, humility, and integrity – of the Kingdom of God.

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

 – Bill

(see The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, pp. 173-74)

And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

  (Matthew 5.33-37, The Message, by Eugene Peterson)