33 “Again, you have heard what was said to your people long ago. They were told, ‘Do not break the promises you make to the Lord. Keep the oaths you have made to him.’ 34 But here is what I tell you. Do not make any promises like that at all. Do not make them in the name of heaven. That is God’s throne. 35 Do not make them in the name of the earth. That is the stool for God’s feet. Do not make them in the name of Jerusalem. That is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not take an oath in the name of your head. You can’t make even one hair white or black. 37 “Just let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes.’ Let your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more than this comes from the evil one.
In the Old Testament law a vow was a promise made to God and these were required to be kept. This passage refers to promises people made to others. Jesus says here that we are not to take oaths or swear by anything, especially not God or anything else which belongs to Him. In those times people were afraid to swear by God in fear of the consequences if they broke their promise, so they used things like heaven or Jerusalem instead, and even their own bodies. Jesus asks how can we bargain with any of these things which belong not to us but to God. This is what ‘taking the name of The Lord in vain’ means.
The message is simple: the ‘word’ of a person of Godly integrity is enough. We either keep our word, or we don’t. Everything we do and say is witnessed by God, whether we swear by Him as our witness or not. Jesus wants us to be trustworthy, and to respect others by keeping to our word.
Heavenly Father please help me to honour you by honouring my promises to people. I want to so live that my word can be relied on. Teach me to know the right thing to do and to act on that with integrity. Amen
Written by Dimity Milne