Oath Games and Who Really Loses.

Oaths

“Trust me” is a term that many use but too few are worthy of saying.  People want to be trusted for relationships, work, special responsibilities and in some cases for a second chances when the level of trustworthiness of an individual is in question.

One way to make ones self be trusted is collateral but in more common context with ones word.  But even ones word has been made to have its special glitter which really leads to playing games on statuses that are really above the real domain of mankind.  I might call it an “oath game” and it has been played for thousands of years.

But about 30 AD in a Roman ruled mountainside Jesus had some things to say about oaths and He does not play games.  He is known by even non-Christian admirers for overturning the tables of the money changers in temple but here he overturns the metaphorical tables where people were using oaths in religious language.

“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, 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.[n], 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.” (Matthew 5:33-37).

I would like to start at the end about the “evil one” reference.  Is that harsh?  Really no.  Commitment that is sincere is really not complicated nor is it meant to be.  Making an oath engenders a punishment on the swearer and tells the person they are swearing to that they are to trust them because the of consequence of the entities make them want to follow through.  That does not speak of the person’s individual integrity.  The rule for the oaths are either implicitly or explicitly based on fear and punishment.  This is so far from the perfect love that Christ wanted and still wants for this world.

Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God— This is important to start with on this point because swearing by heaven presupposes that it is not God’ throne.  To them take that thought out in the vocabulary one could say the swearer is playing God and putting God as irrelevant.

…or by the earth, for it is his footstool. — Forget the phrase that “the devil is in the details”, when it is really God who is in the details.  Psalms says often that the glory of God fills the earth.  At the risk of mixing metaphors, His feet are on this earth because He is always trying to get His foot in the door of our hearts.  Our response is hopefully going to be cooperation with the assumption that His kingdom should come on earth at it is in heaven.

or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King—– This is more profound for the modern day reader than one might think.  Jesus was a Jew speaking to fellow Jews who understood history for them through a lens of what modern day theologians call salvation history.  This is predicated that God had His sovereign hand on Israel with the establishment of covenants using vocabulary that was at times liturgical (sacrifices, ceremony) and royal.  In this reference, it would be a good time for Jesus to use the term how it was the city of the great King.  Bu Jesus makes a point that salvation history does not stop as a sentimental value but in the context of an ongoing, breaking authority.  Among modern day people that profess to be be holy, a sad trap to get into is to speak Christian-ese and declare how their movement is the most anointed thing of God and they have grabbed it like it was their own pet.  When they do this, they are watering down the ongoing covenantal ways of God that have been ongoing through the gospel likewise as a convenient and subjective goose bump.

And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black—  So at this point Jesus is saying that not only can you slap your integrity onto heaven, earth and a religious card but you cannot do this on your life.  God is really in control on all of your personal details.  Maybe the idea Jesus has here that with oaths like this, you are your own worst enemy in thinking that you are not subject to the timeline of mortality.  Every one of those signals of our aging is a reminder that you are not a god.

So with all of these vain oaths eliminated and the hearer of Jesus words processing them, what should they include?  What should we?  I like what Job said, “God is in heaven and your are on earth, so let your words be few.”  Whether we are in a commitment setting directly related to religious or secular affairs, we should remember in our hearts that the fear or awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  And thus instead of worrying about the collateral of our reputation before men first, we should devote ourselves to being true to Creator who created us and say test to His will and assurances.

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