“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.’”
This verse picks up a new discussion about oaths (5:33-37). Oaths are not necessary for those living in the kingdom.
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old,
There is no specific Old Testament quotation here. Jesus referred generally to the Old Testament view on oaths (Ex 20:7; Le 19:12; Nu 30:2; De 23:21-23). The Jews of Jesus’ day developed an intricate system of oath taking.
Oaths in the Old Testament served to bind legal contracts in a time when very few written agreements existed. The oath verbally attested something as true.
God’s unconditional covenants (contracts) are an example of this (e.g., the Abrahamic Covenant, Ge 12-18). God made it compulsory that people take oaths in the Old Testament (Ex 22:10-11; Nu 5:19-22; 6:2f; 30:2f; Ps. 15:1–4). Paul took oaths (Ac 18:18; Ro 1:9; 2 Co 1:23; 11:31).
‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’
The Old Testament forbids the taking and then breaking of oaths. Oaths are binding. The word “perform” means to discharge an obligation.
Jesus condemned the minute and arbitrary restrictions imposed by the scribes and Pharisees in the matter of adjurations, by which they profaned God’s name.
True believers do not need to take an oath because of their character.
The oath of which Jesus spoke had to do with careless oaths. This passage does not prohibit all oaths of any kind. Even God Himself confirmed His promise by an oath (He 6:13-18). Jesus spoke under an oath (Mt 26:63, 64). Jesus prohibited flippant or careless oaths in daily speech. This commandment does not mean that we cannot take an oath in court. The Word of God does not prohibit taking oaths in court or an oath in marriage. Oaths are wrong when they deceive others. God Himself took oaths in the Bible (He 6:13-17).
Religion always tries to convert issues of integrity into a legal system. It violates Christian principle to affirm the truth of a statement by calling on a divine being to execute sanctions against a person if the statement in question is not true.
When we swear by anything in God’s province, we bring God into the deal. Some people use God as a front for their falsehood. This makes our lie more impressive to the unwary. When we make an opinion and portray it as truth, we lie.
An “oath” is something that restrains a person, an enclosure. It is something pledged or promised with an oath. The idea is that this person makes a promise to cover a lie. The promise is a front for a lie, “As God is my witness, I will…”
Here is the way we make false oaths today: “I swear on my mother’s grave. I swear on a stack of Bibles. I cross my heart and hope to die.” All these attempts at persuasion are fabrications and dishonesty.
A spiritual believer should be candid, frank and open in his communications. A carnal believer makes patsies of people by pseudo oaths. They love to blame other people for their mistakes.