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Swear Not At All

December 08, 2013

As we recently studied the rebuke that Jesus made against the scribes and Pharisees for being hypocrites for the way in which they made oats before God, He also told His listeners not to swear at all. Later, James reiterated this command of our Lord. We must be honest and trustworthy, so that our word is taken as truth. A simple "yes" or "no" should suffice.

Bernie Parsons 

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Swear Not At All

by Bernie Parsons


Presented to Load church of Christ on 12-15-2013

Presented to Globe church of Christ on 12-22-2013



In a recent lesson, we studied Jesus’ condemnation of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. One area that our Lord criticized was how they viewed swearing of oaths.


Matthew 23:16 "Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.

19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.

22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon."


While Jesus here was concerned with the hypocrisy of those who were the religious leaders among the Jews of His day, it points to a deeper problem with oaths.


Under the Law of Moses, as found in Numbers chapter 30, there were strict rules regarding oaths, with the word “oath” meaning “sworn”. God does not hold those guiltless who swear and oath, and fail to keep it, for it is a promise meant to be kept.


The following account by Matthew exhibits the dark side of an oath.


Matthew 14:6 "But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.

8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.

9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.

10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother."


Jesus gave the ultimate answer for dealing with the concept of oaths, or swearing.


Matthew 5:33 "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."


James reiterated what our Lord had spoken.


James 5:12 "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation."


Jesus taught that our communication needs to be simple and honest. If we are, there is no need to swear. Have you ever discussed something with another person, and when you expressed skepticism, the other person said, “No, I swear! It’s true!” Or, have you ever promised someone that you will do something, only to have them say to you, “Will you swear to me that you will?” Since people will even swear to a lie, in order to convince you that they are telling the truth in a given situation, they might say, “I swear to God.” “I swear on a stack of Bibles.” “I swear on my mother’s grave.”


Therein lies the problem with dishonesty. No one knows when to believe a dishonest person. When a Christian makes a statement, there should be no doubt as to that person’s honesty. A Christian should be able to answer “Yes” or “No” and the other person knows it is true. Jesus set the example for His followers, because He was the literal embodiment of truth.


John 1:14 "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."


John 1:17 "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."


John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him."


Since Jesus embodies the truth of God, we, as His followers, must live truthful lives.


John 3:19 "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."


We who follow Jesus want the world to see the truth that is our lives.


1 Corinthians 5:7 "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."


In the Greek, apostle Paul is saying that believers in Christ live lives of clearness – purity, sincerity – and truth. We do not need to swear – take oaths – because we are already believable.


2 Corinthians 13:7 "Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.

8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth."


According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the word honest here means "beautiful, as an outward sign of the inward good, noble, honorable character; good, worthy, honorable, noble, and seen to be so". That clearly explains what verse 8 means. Again, the true believer in Christ is an honest – truthful – persons, and does not need to take an oath, or swear, to the truth.



Ephesians 4:22 "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another."


This is a quoation from the Old Testament propher Zechariah.


Zechariah 8:16 "These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:

17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD."


1 John 3:18 "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him."


If we are always truthful in our actions and speech with others, we will gain the reputation of being honest and truthful. Again, oaths are not needed, as a simple “yes” or “no” will suffice.

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