Last week I spent seven days teaching the Sermon on the Mount again. While I preached through it last year for several months for our church community, this time it was an intensive week of teaching it for an hour and a half in corporate discussion every day for seven days. It was a lot! Many things are swirling in my mind from this (again), but I'm writing about one thing today.
‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.'Much of my context of life at the moment revolves around 2-7 year-olds. I hear the words, "I promise..." several times a day. Often, the emphasis is blatantly over-done: I promise! I don't doubt that they picked up on this kind of verbal sealant from their father. I'm kind of wishing it weren't so.
Jesus seems to be saying that we needn't use oaths, but that each word we speak is our oath. Why would it be any other way?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:
"...the fact that oaths exist only proves that we live in a world of lies."Should we make promises to children?
Should we teach our children to make promises?
Or should each word we speak be enough?
There are other questions that arise from this beyond the promises to/of children. What of marriage vows? Military oaths of enlistment? ...and just how did the very book that Jesus' words above come from become a symbol of courtroom "swearing in"? This seems like a rather counter-action to Jesus' very words.