What Does the Bible Say About Taking Oaths?

by | Jul 3, 2020 | Devotionals, Faith

The Old Testament talks about taking vows to God, promising a certain action or sacrifice that the person is then required to fulfill. The verses discussing these vows emphasize the importance of keeping your promises–after all, you’re promising something to God! You are absolutely obligated to keep your word.

Jesus had something interesting to say about these types of vows. Rather than simply repeating the importance of keeping your promises to God, He actually says not to take oaths at all and certainly not to swear by heaven to back up your promises. Why would He advise so strongly against making promises to God? Let’s take a closer look at these verses.

Jesus advised strongly against making an oath to God as described in the Old Testament. Why would this kind of promise be a bad thing? Here’s a closer look at the verses in question. #ORBC #biblestudy Click To Tweet

What Did Jesus Actually Say?

In Matthew 5:33-35, Jesus says “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.”

During this time, Jews, particularly Pharisaic types, took ceremonious oaths. Jesus tells us not to swear by impressive oaths because he doesn’t want us to create misleading statements that will further blind us from God’s love.

Why Shouldn’t We Swear by Heaven?

“Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” We don’t want to swear falsely especially by Heaven. Jesus is essentially saying not to let these oaths fool us or others, as anything that breaks his word is ultimately evil.” We shouldn’t swear falsely by heaven because it shows a lack of respect for God. If you’re calling on a God as a witness to a false promise, that could make God out to be a liar as well. We want to show God in the best light that we can to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

What Should We Do Instead?

The people who swear an oath during Jesus’ time did them to impress others and didn’t intend to keep the promises that they were made. The only true way we can appeal to God by oath is with a true oath to bind us closer to the word of Jesus Christ. God makes promises to us that never fail, and we can only strive to do the same by keeping our promises in everyday life. 

Jesus asks us to go the extra mile for people, stating “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” By doing this, we can keep our promises to those around us and our oaths to Jesus.

Keeping Your Promises

The system of oaths as described in the Old Testament had been distorted by Jesus’ time. Once revered as a sacred promise, this method of promising something had become a cheap way to emphasize your word or convince someone to trust you. Jesus tells us to simply be honest and straightforward in our speech, without attempting to impress someone with flowery language or impressive oaths.

Join the conversation to learn more about the Bible’s approach to keeping your word.

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