Matthew 5:33-37 Condemns All Swearing

Jesus taught in Matthew 5:33-37 that it was okay to swear under Old Testament law (as long as you performed your oaths), but that today we should never swear. It is a good example of how God’s law has changed on a particular.

“You shall not swear falsely” in verse 33 (NKJV) is a quote of “ye shall not swear by my name falsely” in Leviticus 19:12. Note the consistent Old Testament teaching on this point:

· Numbers 30:2 If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

· Psalms 15:1,4b Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? … He that sweareth to his own hurt (detriment, ptd), and changeth not.

· Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:20, 23:21-23, Ecclesiastes 5:4

Matthew 5:33 could not be a false interpretation of the old law by the Pharisees, as it unequivocally condemns their very practice (as described by Matthew 23:16-22).

The essential ingredient in swearing that Jesus condemns here is adding a guarantee to your word – implying you are more likely to tell the truth than without that guarantee (Matthew 5:37b). A Christian whose word can be trusted shouldn’t need to add a guarantee, and when he does, that cast doubt on what he says when he doesn’t add that guarantee.

What is Jesus saying here in this text? The Old Testament taught you could swear, but you had better do what you swore you would do. The New Testament stricter teaching is – you shouldn’t ever swear to begin with (“Swear not AT ALL”), not even in a court of law. Instead, just let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay.


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