Journal Matt 5 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: (Jesus is talking) “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.
BUT I SAY TO YOU, do not take an oath 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 take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—anything more than that comes from evil.” Matt 5:33-37
Observation: Yes or no; nothing as a prefix, nothing as a suffix. If I think of it, it is astounding how many times I use an oath without even noticing…
Analysis: Matthew 5 is loaded with stuff. This “oath” section is only a small part. I think I even perceived that the bottom half of this Chapter is the explanation of the top half. I will have to unpack that more…
Thinking about oaths, it dropped readily in my mind how many times I use a phrase like: “Lord, no…”, or “My goodness, yes…” These are soft examples of the category of oaths. I can recall worse examples of oaths I can hear and be around daily.
Unfortunately, while I may not use those “worse” examples, they bounce between my ears with very little effort or resistance.
I use oaths as an emphasis; I mean something serious when I use an oath of any kind. It draws attention to the outward appearance of my intentions. When I agree with something, I might use, “Heavens, yes!!” When I disagree: “Heavens, no!!” or a word akin to those.
These prefix statements fall right into what Jesus said: Don’t use heaven, earth, Jerusalem, your parents grave, your children, your eye, your hair, anything. They are not mine to swear by—I don’t own them; none of them.
Here is where it is evil: the assumption that swearing by anything changes any intensity of any of your statements—by stretching the point, I am assuming a sovereignty, an authority that I don’t have AND will never have.
Oath-taking like I described above is a habit of the tongue. In me, it is lazy speech, letting loose of sinful thinking and not “renewing my mind” —yep: this is Romans 12:2 in practical application.
Overcoming these tendencies starts somewhere—a good reading of James is a great start.
Prayer: Father, help me to control my tongue and renew my mind. I want my speech to be Yes and/or No in You. AMEN