Have ever lift your hand under oath, saying: “So help me God.”
Have you ever had somebody say to you “I swear I will pay you back at the end of the month” and that end of the month, and many more ends of the months have come and gone.
Let’s listen what Jesus taught on this issue
Matthew 5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’
Matthew 5:34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
Matthew 5:35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
Matthew 5:36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.
Matthew 5:37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
The reason for this command is given: We are not to swear “by the heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black.” R.V.
All things come of God. We have nothing that we have not received; and, more than this, we have nothing that has not been purchased for us by the blood of Christ. Everything we possess comes to us stamped with the cross, bought with the blood that is precious above all estimate, because it is the life of God.
Hence there is nothing that we have a right to pledge, as if it were our own, for the fulfilment of our word.
The Jews understood the third commandment as prohibiting the profane use of the name of God; but they thought themselves at liberty to employ other oaths. Oath taking was common among them.
Through Moses they had been forbidden to swear falsely, but they had many devices for freeing themselves from the obligation imposed by an oath. They did not fear to indulge in what was really profanity, nor did they shrink from perjury, lying under oath, so long as it was veiled by some technical evasion of the law.
Jesus condemned their practices, declaring that their custom in oath taking was a transgression of the commandment of God. Our Saviour did not, however, forbid the use of the judicial oath, in which God is solemnly called to witness that what is said is truth and nothing but the truth. Jesus Himself, at His trial before the Sanhedrin, did not refuse to testify under oath.
The high priest said unto Him, “I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered, “Thou hast said.” Matthew 26:63, 64.
Had Christ in the Sermon on the Mount condemned the judicial oath, He would at His trial have reproved the high priest and thus, for the benefit of His followers, have enforced His own teaching.
There are very many who do not fear to deceive their fellow men, but they have been taught, and have been impressed by the Spirit of God, that it is a fearful thing to lie to their Maker. When put under oath they are made to feel that they are not testifying merely before men, but before God.
If they bear false witness, it is to Him who reads the heart and who knows the exact truth. The knowledge of the fearful judgments that have followed this sin has a restraining influence upon them.
But if there is anyone who can consistently testify under oath, it is the Christian. He lives constantly as in the presence of God, knowing that every thought is open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do; and when required to do so in a lawful manner, it is right for him to appeal to God as a witness that what he says is the truth, and nothing but the truth.
Jesus proceeded to lay down a principle that would make oath taking needless. He teaches that the exact truth should be the law of speech. “Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one.” R.V.
These words condemn all those meaningless phrases and expletives, swear words, that border on profanity. They condemn the deceptive compliments, the evasion of truth, the flattering phrases, the exaggerations, the misrepresentations in trade, that are current in society and in the business world.
They teach that no one who tries to appear what he is not, or whose words do not convey the real sentiment of his heart, can be called truthful.
If these words of Christ were heeded, they would check the utterance of evil surmising and unkind criticism; for in commenting upon the actions and motives of another, who can be certain of speaking the exact truth?
How often pride, passion, personal resentment, colour the impression given! A glance, a word, even an intonation of the voice, may be vital with falsehood. Even facts may be so stated as to convey a false impression. And “whatsoever is more than” truth, “is of the evil one.”
Everything that Christians do should be as transparent as the sunlight. Truth is of God; deception, in every one of its myriad forms, is of Satan; and whoever in any way departs from the straight line of truth is betraying himself into the power of the wicked one. Yet it is not a light or an easy thing to speak the exact truth.
We cannot speak the truth unless we know the truth; and how often preconceived opinions, mental bias, imperfect knowledge, errors of judgment, prevent a right understanding of matters with which we must do! We cannot speak the truth unless our minds are continually guided by Him who is truth.
Through the apostle Paul, Christ bids us,
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
In the light of these scriptures the words of Christ upon the mount are seen to condemn jesting, trifling, and unchaste conversation. They require that our words should be not only truthful, but pure.
Those who have learned of Christ will “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” Ephesians 5:11. In speech, as in life, they will be simple, straightforward, and true; for they are preparing for the fellowship of those holy ones in whose mouth “was found no guile.” Revelation 14:5.
Have you at times felt like retaliating? Payback time is overdue, you may think. Listen what Christ has to say about the matter:
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
Matthew 5:40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
Matthew 5:41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you
Occasions of irritation to the Jews were constantly arising from their contact with the Roman soldiery. Detachments of troops were stationed at different points throughout Judea and Galilee, and their presence reminded the people of their own degradation as a nation.
With bitterness of soul, they heard the loud blast of the trumpet and saw the troops forming around the standard of Rome and bowing in homage to this symbol of her power. Collisions between the people and the soldiers were frequent, and these inflamed the popular hatred.
Often as some Roman official with his guard of soldiers hastened from point to point, he would seize upon the Jewish peasants who were labouring in the field and compel them to carry burdens up the mountainside or render any other service that might be needed.
This was in accordance with the Roman law and custom, and resistance to such demands only called forth taunts and cruelty. Every day deepened in the hearts of the people the longing to cast off the Roman yoke.
Especially among the bold, rough-handed Galileans the spirit of insurrection was rife. Capernaum, being a border town, was the seat of a Roman garrison, and even while Jesus was teaching, the sight of a company of soldiers recalled to His hearers the bitter thought of Israel’s humiliation. The people looked eagerly to Christ, hoping that He was the One who was to humble the pride of Rome.
With sadness Jesus investigates the upturned faces before Him. He notes the spirit of revenge that has stamped its evil imprint upon them, and knows how bitterly the people long for power to crush their oppressors.
Mournfully He says: Matthew 5:39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
These words were but a reiteration of the teaching of the Old Testament. It is true that the rule, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Leviticus 24:20), was a provision in the laws given through Moses; but it was a civil statute.
None were justified in avenging themselves, for they had the words of the Lord: “Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you.
Proverbs 24:29 Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.”
Provers 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, I
Proverbs 25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
Proverbs 25:22 For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the LORD will reward you.
The whole earthly life of Jesus was a manifestation of this principle. It was to bring the bread of life to His enemies that our Saviour left His home in heaven. Though calumny and persecution were heaped upon Him from the cradle to the grave, they called forth from Him only the expression of forgiving love.
Through the prophet Isaiah He says,
Isaiah 50:6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
And from the cross of Calvary there come down through the ages His prayer for His murderers and the message of hope to the dying thief.
The Father’s presence encircled Christ, and nothing befell Him but that which infinite love permitted for the blessing of the world. Here was His source of comfort, and it is for us.
He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ. He has no need to resist evil, for Christ is his defence.
Nothing can touch him except by our Lord’s permission, and “all things” that are permitted “work together for good to them that love God.” Romans 8:28.
Jesus taught His disciples, instead of resisting the demands of those in authority, to do even more than was required of them. And, so far as possible, they should discharge every obligation, even if it were beyond what the law of the land required.
The law, as given through Moses, enjoined a very tender regard for the poor. When a poor man gave his garment as a pledge, or as security for a debt, the creditor was not permitted to enter the dwelling to obtain it; he must wait in the street for the pledge to be brought to him.
And whatever the circumstances the pledge must be returned to its owner at nightfall. Deuteronomy 24:10-13.
In the days of Christ these merciful provisions were little regarded; but Jesus taught His disciples to submit to the decision of the court, even though this should demand more than the law of Moses authorized.
Though it should demand a part of their raiment, they were to yield. More than this, they were to give to the creditor his due, if necessary, surrendering even more than the court gave him authority to seize.
Matthew 5:40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.
Matthew 5:41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.
Matthew 5:42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away
The same lesson had been taught through Moses:
Deuteronomy 15:7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother,
Deuteronomy 15:8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.
“Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me.”