33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one (Matthew 5:33–37, NKJV).”
Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are people of integrity. They keep their word. The Jews had invented ingenious ways to circumvent honesty while still claiming to be honest. They thought they could swear by the temple and free themselves from their pledge. But, they said an oath made by the temple’s gold obliged one to keep it (Matt. 23:16). Jesus said they were blind fools for making such false oaths (Matt. 26:17, 18-22). It is intriguing and pertinent that today’s passage (that emphasizes the integrity of keeping one’s word) immediately follows Christ’s declaration of the sanctity of marriage (Matt. 5:31-32). The marriage vow is for life (“until death we do part”), and yet too many break their vow and think they are freed from their obligation made to and before God (Matt. 19:6; Rom. 7:2-3). The Christian’s word is trustworthy and dependable in all matters. Playing word games to evade the truth and our moral responsibility makes us no different from the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). Let your word be your bond. People notice, and so does the Lord (Matt. 5:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:12; Ps. 15:4).
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33–37, NKJV)
Jesus teaches one’s honesty should be so ironclad that his word is sufficient to settle any matter. “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). Swearing an oath becomes superfluous to the one whose constant code is the integrity of truth (Matt. 5:33-36). When someone must try to convince you they are telling you “the honest truth,” something is “rotten in Denmark.” “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). A good dose of honesty improves every relationship in your life. Be trustworthy and remember; others know your honesty by your words and the life you live.
22 And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23 He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” 24 So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” (Mark 6:22–24, NKJV)
John the Baptist was a preacher who lost his head because he dared to speak truth to powerful sinners. I wonder how many preachers would lose their heads under similar circumstances today. 1) John lost his head because he preached against adultery (Mk. 6:17-18). It was a sin for Herod and Herodias to be married. Both of them had previous spouses whom they divorced, then married each other (Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus, 18.5.1, 4). Today, many preachers encourage churches to receive into fellowship those who are in adulterous remarriages in violation of Matthew 19:9. 2) John lost his head because of a rash vow (Mk. 6:23). Rash promises often lead to foolish actions (Matt. 14:9). We should think before we speak (Jas. 1:19-20). 3) John lost his head because of a dancing daughter (Mk. 6:22). Dancing continues to stir sinful lusts of the flesh and eye (Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5; 1 Jno. 2:15-16). Herodias’ parental permission precipitated passion in Herod, leading to his rash oath and John’s death. Dancing still incites lusts in participants and those who watch it. Yet, many Christians approve of it. Would our head be on a platter next to John’s for preaching God’s truth to powerful sinners (Mk. 6:27-28)?
17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, (Hebrews 6:17–19, NKJV)
God promised Abraham He would bless him and his descendants, and that all the nations of the earth through his seed. And, He confirmed His promise with an oath (Gen. 22:16-18). Jesus Christ is the Seed in whom God fulfilled His promise (Gal. 3:16). God’s promise and oath – two unchangeable things – give us relief from sin and the refuge of hope God has set before us. Our faith in Jesus (who entered the most holy place of heaven as High Priest with His atoning blood) gives substance to our hope (Heb. 6:20; 8:1-3; 11:1). In turn, our hope anchors our souls through the storms of life. Hope combines desire and expectation. Hope secures us when our faith is tested because our faith is in Jesus, not in ourselves. You can weather the storm of sin and the storms of life because God does not lie. His promise and oath are firm. His Son Jesus has opened the way for us to the presence of God (Heb. 10:19-21). So, live by faith and find solace in the living hope we have in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
18 …that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:18–20, NKJV)
Although anxiety can weigh down the heart to the point of despair, hope in Christ secures the soul. God’s promise and God’s oath are the two unchangeable things that give us strong encouragement as we live by faith (Heb. 6:13, 17). God made a promise of eternal blessings to Abraham and his seed. God keeps His word. God swore by Himself in order to confirm the certainty of His promise. God does not lie. Therefore, our hope (desire and expectation) of eternal life is sure and steadfast. Through Christ we have access to the Presence of Almighty God. He has gone into heaven before us, serving as our High Priest and obtaining for us God’s mercy and grace (Heb. 7-8). Patiently endure the present trials; your hope is secure in Jesus (Heb. 6:15).