Vows and Oaths: Matthew 5:33-37
““33) Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34) But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35) or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36) Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37) But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” Matthew‬ ‭5:33-37‬ ‭
Jesus now devotes five verses to making vows and oaths. He warns against the practice for two reasons. First, as mere mortals, we do not have the power to keep some oaths. They may sound good, but many boil down to wishful thinking.
Second, God holds us accountable to keep our word. We can bring a curse upon ourself by not keeping a vow or oath.
Breaking a promise is also serious. It taints our character. In my years of working with youth, I have seen many of them deeply wounded by broken promises from a parent. Unfulfilled promises can cut to the core.
How serious are vows or oaths? In the immediate context, Jesus devoted two verses to the subject of divorce, but He devoted five verses to breaking vows and oaths. Empty vows and oaths undermine society.
I was very careful as a State Representative not to make reckless campaign promises. I committed to do my best and consistently stand for conservative causes, but passing some legislation was beyond me or had attached amendments that I could not support.
It is much wiser to simply say “yes” or “no” with no attached consequence rather than make a binding vow. Oaths and vows are like legally binding contracts, they cannot be broken without consequence. Jesus was warning about placing ourself in that position.
I believe in goal setting, I do not believe in making binding vows, especially in my relationship with God. I make the goal of reading several chapters in my Bible every day, but I do not make it a vow. I also make a goal of writing and posting this Daily Bible Commentary every day, but I do not make it a vow. I recognize there will be circumstances beyond my control that will prevent me from reaching my goals at times. When I miss my goal, I can move on with a clear conscience and pick up where I left off the next day. This is very freeing and liberating.
I believing in living by grace and not binding vows. My motto is: “I’ll do my best and trust God to do the rest.” He is the only one I know with the ability to both remember and keep His every promise.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global