Hairs and Swears (Oaths, Part 2)

By Lee Jones

.:Matthew 5: 36, 37:.

Jesus brings his teaching on swearing oaths to its completion and, like many of the previous teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, He takes the makes it not a matter of law but of the heart.

Previously, Jesus forbade swearing by heaven, the earth, or the city of the king…all three things that God has exclusive claim to and the individual has no claim to. We are soon to see there’s much more to which we have no claim.

By thinking we have the power and authority to swear by things we cannot control and do not truly own, we sin against the Thrice-Holy God and risk discipline for our deeds.

A foundational truth from Scripture is that every human being bears the image of God- The Imago Dei. This doctrine has its basis in Genesis 1:26, where YHWH makes man in His own image. We are not our own. As it says in Acts, in Him we live and move and have our being, so we have no claim even to our own bodies as something to swear on. Everything we have is a gift from God, and we have no right to put anything up as collateral in an oath.

Take your own head for example. You don’t even have the power to change the color of your hair. You can’t make white hair black again, not even dye can truly do that. You also can’t make hair grow back where it used to be (which is my predicament). How could you swear by your own head when you can only sit back and observe the changes that happen to it as you age?

Instead, a Christian’s word should be his oath. If you say “yes,” then that’s what you should mean and you should stand behind it. The same with “no.”

James, Jesus’ brother in the flesh, echoes this teaching in his own epistle. James 5:12, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear either by heaven or by earth, or by any oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and you’re ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”

The Christian should have the humility to know that all he or she has is a gift from God, and to know his or her place. We who have received the very promises of God, as sworn by His own self as discussed last time, testify to His trustworthiness by keeping our promises without swearing. By thinking we have the power and authority to swear by things we cannot control and do not truly own, we sin against the Thrice-Holy God and risk discipline for our deeds.

We who are upheld by the word of YHWH’s power should be compelled to keep our words simply because we have the Holy Spirit living in us and are obedient to the teaching of Christ. No frivolous or unwarranted vows necessary.

Glory to God alone.


Lee Jones