The Sermon on the Mount #8 - Swearing & Oaths
The Sermon on the Mount #8:
Swearing & Oaths
Text: Matt. 5.33-37
Thesis: To stress the necessity of being a “man of your word.”
(1) In a book, The Day America Told the Truth, 91% of those who were surveyed admitted that they lied about matters they considered trivial and 36% admitted that they lied about “important” matters.
(2) Think about the numerous examples that immediately come to mind, like:
Ø Bill Clinton
Ø Writer for the NY Times
(3) Let us note the necessity of telling the truth.
I. The Problem (v. 33):
A. “What the people have heard is not given as direct OT quotation but as a summary statement accurately condensing the burden of Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2, and Deuteronomy 5:11; 6:3; 23:21-23” (EBC).
B. “Under the interpretation of the Pharisees, the divine prohibition was against ‘SWEARING’ a lie. This, in practice, meant that as long as one had not been properly "sworn in," or as long as one refused to deliver a formal oath, the offender could tell as many lies as he would without incurring guilt under the Law” (Coffman’s).
C. “Incredible distinctions proliferate under such an approach. Swearing by heaven and earth was not binding, nor was swearing by Jerusalem, though swearing toward Jerusalem was. That an entire mishnaic tract (M Shebuoth) is given over to the subject (cf. also M Sanhedrin 3.2, Tosephta Nedarim 1; SBK, 1:321-36) shows that such distinctions became important and were widely discussed” (EBC).
D. Helmut Thielicke observes: “Whenever I utter the formula ‘I swear by God,’ I am really saying, ‘Now I’m going to mark off an area of absolute truth and put walls around it to cut off from the muddy floods of untruthfulness and irresponsibly that ordinarily overruns my speech.’ In fact, I am saying even more than this. I am saying that people are expecting me to lie from the start. And just because they are counting on my lying I have to bring up these big guns of oaths and words of honor.”
II. The Solution (vv. 34-37):
A. Don’t take any oaths by which you intend not to fulfill even if you swear by things other than God’s name because “God stands behind everything. The entire creation is God’s, and you cannot refer to a part of it without referring ultimately to him” (Hughes).
B. In other words, it is never acceptable to intentionally tell a lie and/or fail to keep your word.
C. Thus, as a Christian, you must be a “man of your word.”
D. What about oaths in court?
1. “In the Scriptures God himself ‘swears’ (e.g., Gen 9:9-11; Luke 1:68, 73; cf. Ps 16:10 and Acts 2:27-31), not because he sometimes lies, but in order to help men believe (Heb 6:17). The earliest Christians still took oaths, if we may judge from Paul's example (Rom 1:9; 2Cor 1:23; 1Thess 2:5, 10; cf. Philippians 1:8), for much the same reason. Jesus himself testified under oath (26:63-64)” (EBC).
2. The point is about keeping your word, not about the oath itself.
- Let us be people of truth!