by Mike Ratliff
12 ‘You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:12 NASB)
2 “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. (Numbers 30:2 NASB)
21 “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. 22 “However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. 23 “You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised. (Deuteronomy 23:21-23 NASB)
For a short period of time in late 1980’s I worked in a PC/Computer store in sales. I am not a sales person, but most if not all of the other fellows I worked with were. Instead, I simply told people what the computers could do or what they could not do and tried to match them up with what the people needed. I was usually in the top two or three in sales, never number one there, but I was always number one in customer satisfaction. In fact, the only time I ever saw those customers again was if something broke or they wanted an upgrade or they brought a friend or relative in to buy a computer. However, something changed when I sold a truckload of computers to a local school. Then I did it again. Then our sales manager forced me to move to outside sales and out of the showroom. I hated it. Suddenly I began dealing with agents from companies whose whole way of doing business was based on mistrust. In fact, I had one who went out of his way to put legal pressure on us to fill contracts, et cetera. I asked the guy why he did that since I always did what I said I would do. He told me that he did that with everyone he did business with because that was how he insured that he always got things done. I told him I didn’t want his business and gave the account to another guy in our group. That was the beginning of the end of my time in marketing. Even though God provided for my family and me during that time through it, I hated it except in those early days when I was helping those people one-on-one and they were overjoyed to get it. When it became ugly I came to hate my job and God was gracious to move me back into what I really liked doing at that time, which was writing database applications.
When I read Matthew 5:33-37 I always think of that guy I mentioned above who did everything he could to put pressure on me to do what I was going to do anyway. I never made oaths that I would deliver on certain dates. I simply turned orders in that were given to me then gave estimates back to my clients with a range of dates when it looked like I could deliver. That was not good enough for this guy. I’m surprised he didn’t demand bond money. Carefully read Matthew 5:33-37, below.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘You shall not break your vows, but you shall repay to the Lord your vows.’ 34 But I say to you do not swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 nor by earth, for it is the footstool of his feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it s the city of the Great King, 36 nor swear by your head, for you are not able to make one hair white or black. 37 But let your word be ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’ but beyond these is from evil.” (Matthew 5:33-37 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
Our Lord was not condemning all oaths here for God himself confirmed a promise with an oath (Hebrews 6:13-18; cf. Acts 2:30). Our Lord himself spoke under oath (Matthew 26:63,64). The Law prescribed oaths in certain circumstances (Numbers 5:19,21; 30:2,3). Our Lord is forbidding here the flippant, profane, or careless use of oaths in everyday speech in that culture, such oaths were often employed for deceptive purposes. Those doing that would swear by “heaven,” “earth,” “Jerusalem,” or their own “heads” (vv. 34-36), not by God. In this they hoped to avoid divine judgment for their lie, however, all of it is in God’s creation, so it drew him in, and produced guilt before him just as if the oath were made in his name. Jesus suggested that all our speech should be as if we were under an oath to tell the truth (v37).
I think the only thing that angers me more than someone being dishonest with me is being treated as if I am dishonest and through that forcing me into some sort system of taking oaths or “do this or else” scenario. I suppose that is why I resent being treated as a potential terrorist when I have to go through security at the airport. People will say that if we all submit to that treatment then we are all safer. I don’t think so. I believe that is simply a political mechanism being used in an attempt to make those traveling feel safer so they will continue to fly. Oh, well, not being an anarchist, I will continue to be a good citizen and obey the laws of wherever God has me and so should you.
Soli Deo Gloria!