“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” (Matthew 5:17)
In this series, we are looking at how Jesus redefined different laws, ideas, and notions by expanding their meanings and, thus, our understanding of the Scriptures.
“I swear to God!” People use this phrase to convince people about what they’re saying. It’s used as an honesty indicator, but it’s not the only one. Sometimes we swear by things on this earth: “I swear on my life!” “I swear on my mother’s life!” “I swear on the grave of my grandfather!” Jesus addressed this type of behavior and raised the standard for our truth-telling.
“‘You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.’” (Matthew 5:33-37)
Jesus first raises the bar by pointing out that we shouldn’t swear by heaven because heaven is God’s throne nor by earth because it is God’s footstool. An appreciation of God’s holiness is necessary to understand this, but reverence for God is quickly fading in today’s Christian climate. With churches adding more and more amenities to make people comfortable, I fear we may die comfortable in our sins instead of living convicted and repentant. We will never understand why Jesus taught not to swear by heaven if we cannot elevate our appreciation of God’s holiness.
Jesus gets to the root, to a simpler answer: Yes or No. Anything else is from the evil one. Satan is the father of lies and will whisper to us to make promises we can’t keep, oversell our story, stretch the truth, or disrespect God’s holiness. Jesus gets to the heart of the matter: we shouldn’t need to swear by anything to convince people. May Jesus’ followers stand apart by letting our yes be our yes and our no be our no.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.