“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath 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. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
(Matthew 5:33-37 NIV)
Jesus continues with His uber-righteous examples of living, using oaths (solemn promises) as His third illustration.
Why, do you suppose, would Jesus use this illustration?
Very simply, because we live in a fallen world. And constant reminders of our fallen-ness are broken promises.
We make and break promises to God, to ourselves, and to others.
And it hurts.
We feel the pain every day, in our strained relationships with God, ourselves, and those most dear to us.
And Jesus calls it sin.
Promises are really important. They are the basis for our faith. We put our trust in Jesus’ promise that He alone offers eternal life with God. We believe that God’s Word is true, and Jesus’ death reconciles our unholy lives to a perfect God, that there is nothing we can do to earn our way into heaven.
We believe that Jesus’ burial and bodily resurrection (as well as His promises to us) is a sign of hope, a promise that we too will live in eternity beyond the grave.
Jesus warns His disciples (and us) not to make our promises on anything like heaven, earth, or even our own heads. We can’t control any of those things, even the natural color of our hair.
Our word must be our bond.
Jesus says answering with a simple “yes” or “no” must suffice.
We learn about broken promises at an early age, don’t we? We learn it from our parents, and from those around us. And we come up with all kinds of crazy things to hold each other accountable for our words.
- “I double-dog promise…”
- “I pinkie swear…”
- “I double triple promise…”
You get the idea.
OK, so we blow it, and break our promises.
But what about Jesus? Can we count on His promises?
And how can we know that with certainty?
Just take a look at the natural world around us. The sun comes up every morning, and sets every evening. The seasons come and go each year. Plants spring up, bloom, then die, and repeat the cycle all over again.
How is your “oath factor” today? Any broken promises (and the accompanying relationships) that need mending?