“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
Jesus attention now turns to the keeping of promises, dealing with mistreatment, and loving those around you in this passage of Scripture. As you read these, please keep in mind that Jesus is giving instruction for living as a Christian. That instruction is radically different from what we hear in society and even what we think in our fleshly selves. We are presented with an entirely new way of living in the Sermon on the Mount. We ought to learn these principles and seek to live as a resident of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Making vows was an important aspect of the Jewish religion. Therefore, many vows and promises were made by the people to God and to others. However, vows and promises were often broken as the limits of humanity and the frailty of life proved to be too big of an obstacle to overcome.
It is out of this context that Jesus addresses vows. He teaches that it is better not to make a promises than to make one and break it. It is better not to “swear an oath” by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, or even our own heads. This seems to imply that elaborate wording was not the most important aspect when making promises and vows.
What was the most important aspect? KEEPING the vow is what truly matters. If you make a promise then keep it. Otherwise, don’t make a promise or vow.
Jesus said “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” If you say “yes” to a vow then do everything in your power to keep it. If you say “no” then stick to your word. Flowery words are just words. Being truthful is what matters most of all!
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