“But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
But I say to you,
Jesus challenged the casuistry of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus went to the heart of the Old Testament intention.
Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
The Old Testament forbids swearing by God’s name falsely (Le 19:12; Nu 30:2; De 23:21). This draws God as a witness to our testimony that we are telling the truth.
Jesus said in effect, “Do not use an oath for evasion, especially by drawing God into your oath.” An oath is not necessary for people of the kingdom who carry integrity in their souls; therefore, they should not take oaths at all.
or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Jews avoided swearing by God’s name by substituting swearing by earth or Jerusalem.
And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
This is another form of trying to swear by avoiding God’s name. Everything is in God’s sovereign providential care. Everything belongs to God.
The word “swear” here does not mean profanity, blasphemy, or dirty talk. The New Testament uses the word “swear” for affirming or denying by a solemn oath. The word means to affirm, promise, or threaten with a religious oath. This gives a religious guarantee to validate their statement.
Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’;
All oaths are equally binding. A “yes” or “no” should be sufficient if one’s character is what it should be. People of integrity say what they mean. The ethic of the kingdom does not need an oath.
Anything more than this comes from evil.
All Christian ethics reside in Christian character. When we add an oath to a statement, we admit that people cannot trust our statement. Jews of the first century swore by oaths other than the name of God when they wanted to lie about something.
Jesus’ standard is integrity of speech by a child of the King.
All oath taking is unnecessary if one is in the habit of telling the truth. We do not need an oath to verify our word. A true Christian goes beyond the letter of the law to integrity of truth. If we have to use an oath to convince someone of our integrity, we are behind the eight ball from the start. True speech is part of character as an ambassador or representative of Jesus Christ. We are responsible for our own statements.
The person who stands up in a business meeting and says “The Lord told me” is using an oath in God’s name. This makes God a patsy by rendering God responsible for our assertion. This puts God as our co-signer.
Jesus’ standard is integrity of speech. This is honest speech. A person’s word is binding regardless of whether he takes an oath or not. Oaths are not intrinsically evil, and in fact they are necessary in court.
Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. 2 Co 1:17-18
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment. Jas 5:12