- Matt 5:33-37
- Teaching about Oaths
I read this from an article by Stephen Erickson (Campus Life) entitled, How to Choose a Dentist. He said that you can always trust a dentist: “who has never chewed gum; who looks like Jack Nicholson; who doesn’t ask you questions when your mouth’s full; who puts you to sleep two weeks before your appointment; who uses a laser instead of a drill; who cancels your appointment to play tennis; who has mellow rock piped into his office instead of elevator music; who doesn’t strap you in the chair.”
Well anyway, making an oath or swear was an accepted practice among the Jews as long as it was made good. But Jesus perfects this practice by offering something new. He says: “But I say to you, do not swear at all. Let your yes, mean yes and your no, mean no,” (v. 34). We can consider these words of Christ as a command to be very truthful, honest and sincere especially in our words. It is very good to know that one is dealing with a person who is sincere. On the other hand, it is very difficult to deal with a person whose words are not trustworthy, not sincere and not honest. In other words, Jesus is addressing the issue of honesty and truthfulness especially in our words and therefore, desires that each one of us shall be honest, transparent and so on.
What does it mean to be true and sincere to our words? First, it means integrity. Moses told the people of Israel, “Yahweh has ordered: If a man makes a vow to God or takes a formal pledge under oath, he must not break his word; whatever he promises by word of mouth he must do,” (Num 30:3). Jesus teaches us that when we promise something it should not be guaranteed by what we swear on but by, who we are which means our integrity in our dealings with others and with God and never allows any insincerity. Do we live with integrity or with duplicity and insincerity?
Second, it demands commitment. It is so hard to be true to our words because it demands commitment. This means we live our lives according to truth and be faithful witnesses of it. As His disciples we should be capable of being trusted without verbal rituals to give its validity. And Jesus also speaks against bearing false witness and all forms of untruthfulness and swearing unnecessary oaths to God.
One of the best stories that I read about commitment is this: In Ancient Greece, to prevent idiotic statesmen from passing idiotic laws upon the people, lawmakers were asked to introduce all new laws while standing on a platform with a rope around their neck. If the law passed, the rope was removed. If it failed, the platform was removed.
Third, it means making conscience as our guide to the truth. The Catechism says that our conscience is the sanctuary where a person is alone with himself and God. Here there is no hiding from the truth; our consciences tells us when to say “Yes” and when to say “No”. H.C. Trumbull also said that conscience tells us that we ought to do right, but it does not tell us what right is, that we are taught by God’s word. Do we see that God is speaking to us through our consciences and that to live with integrity we need to follow it every minute of every day?
At the end let us reflect these words too:
I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care:
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
One who values God’s Word will keep his own word.