Christian Devotions
By Ross Freeman

Yes or No?

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 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 even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”(Matthew 5:33-37 NIV) The Pharisees instigated elaborate rules governing vows, the law was such that only those vows using God’s name were binding. However, Jesus taught that a vow is binding regardless of what formula is used. The use of oaths is superfluous when our word should suffice.

On many occasions people who make oaths or confessions do not always tell the truth. Making false vows or perjuring themselves in the name of the Lord was strongly condemned by the law. (Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 19:12)

The emphasis on the sanctity of oaths led to the feeling that ordinary phrasing need not be truthful or binding. Jesus taught in Matthew 3:37 that we should say and mean yes or no and never equivocate. Digging a bit deeper we see there are two types of oaths: religious and civil, spiritual and judicial.

We who are of God’s Kingdom are bound by a conditional oath to redeem and save mankind. This is the covenant of God in which He swears by Himself, because He can swear by no greater. (Genesis 22:16; Psalm 105:9; Luke 1:73 and Hebrews 6:13-14) We have to enter into God’s covenant in order to be saved.

Vowing to God is therefore of the very essence of Christianity. By making this covenant oath, we are positively enjoined: we are to stand in awe of God, our covenant God, and to have no other God beside Him. It is implying that we bind ourselves to worship and serve Him only. He is also a witness to all our actions.

Jesus did not come to destroy the law, which included oaths of every imaginable type, but to bind them up by the cords of love. In referring to the gospel, God is saying, “I have sworn by myself; the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, and that every knee shall bow, every tongue confess.”

Making a false oath is an abomination to God; it is taking His name in vain, thereby breaking the third commandment. This then is a form of showing contempt of God for which there is no excuse. It is an unmistakable sign of a graceless heart. God will not hold this type of person guiltless, He will eventually be made to answer for this by God. When we give an oath or swear a truth, it must be spoken in the simplicity of truth, there must be no deception.

The old saying of “A man’s word is his bond,” must once again return to our modern society, especially to us as Christians, releasing us from the worldly slur of hypocrites.

Let our speech and pledges always be truthful, bringing glory to God. Please absorb the following two scriptures into your spirit, allowing them to be the signposts that will guide you to speak in truth and protect you from the pitfalls of falsity.

“But above all my brothers, do not swear either by heaven of by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes and your no, no, so that you may not fall under Judgement.” (James 5:12 NIV)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace. Seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everything.” (Colossians 4:6 NIV)

If we are to walk in truth in the words we speak, we need to reflect on Jesus, who, when asked by Pilate, “what is truth?” Jesus replied, “It is the man before you.”

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