"The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." – Genesis 17:8
“Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear 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 swear 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.”
The verses above are a wonderful set from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and they contain a great deal that we can learn. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, God gives an explanation on taking oaths and He tells His people that if they swear, it is imperative that they follow through because they are essentially invoking God as a witness to the promise. In the sixth chapter of Hebrews, the anonymous author tells us that “people swear by something greater than themselves.” The very nature of swearing means that you are invoking a higher authority than yourself. Surely you’ve heard people say “I swear to God” or “I promise to God” etc. When these careless statements are uttered, the speaker is calling on God as a witness to the discussion. But, this can be dangerous because we simply can’t know everything and we could easily end up being wrong (even if we think that we are right to begin with).
Jesus says, “Do not swear at all.” And his reasoning? It’s simple; you have no authority to invoke anything as a witness, much less God Almighty. To swear to God is to try and lend more credibility to your argument; however, living a simple, holy life will build credibility that no invocation of God can do. Who would you be more likely to trust: Someone who you have caught in lies many times before but NOW ‘swears to God’ or someone who has modeled a life of honesty, truth, simplicity, and holiness? The answer is not a difficult one.
We need to realize that we are nothing. We need to be humbled because it is a lack of humility that causes us to ‘swear’ in the first place. We have too high a view of ourselves if we believe that we have power to swear by anything at all. Instead, we should model a life of simplicity and honesty. Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.” I exhort you to live a life of simplicity today. Speak less. Speak only when you feel led by God and notice how much we speak out of our ‘selves’, without edifying Christ, Our Father or His Church. A simple, honest life will get you much further than any ‘invocation of the gods.’