Week of September 1 - Day 3

Day 3 Read: Matthew 5:33-37

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. 

Reflect: The original laws regarding oaths are found in Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2, and Deuteronomy 23:21. What was the main point of these laws?  How did Jesus’ interpretation differ from the Pharisees’?

Consider: The situation described is one in which many Jews viewed swearing by “heaven,” “earth,” “Jerusalem,” or “one’s head” as less binding than swearing “by God.” Jesus stresses that each of these items belongs to God in an important way (cf. Isa 66:1) so that the conventional Jewish distinctions are spurious. Even one’s head, which might be thought to be uniquely under an individual’s control, has divinely predetermined features, such as hair coloring (temporary dyeing is not in view here!). Rather, Jesus’ followers should be people whose words are so characterized by integrity that others need no formal assurance of their truthfulness in order to trust them.[1] 

Respond: What is the heart of the matter regarding oaths? Why is keeping promises important? What do we communicate to other people when we fail to keep our word? What do we communicate to God?

[1] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 112.