We humans find it easy to make a promise to another human, even before God. When we want something or someone bad enough, we will say and do anything to get what we want. “I will do whatever it takes to get that woman (or man) to love and marry me.” “I swear on my mother’s grave, I will make this project happen.” “By all that is holy, I promise to do what I say I’m going to do.” But, guess what? This is merely worldview thinking and is commonly found in evil’s toolbox. Jesus teaches us to go much deeper into our hearts and listen to what God meant when He gave us His Laws (Commandments) to live by for our own good and for the good of others affected by our decisions.
“You have heard it said”, says Jesus of worldview thinking, but I say to you…”
I have lumped three teachings together for it seems deep down it is all about promises we make to each other. It is about being cautious of making promises we don’t really intend to keep that later lead to destructive behaviors. For example, many go into marriage thinking there is always a way out as opposed to thinking God will keep together what He has put together in our marriage vow before Him. The former, “way out” thinking, leads to individual, selfish decision making that thinks if their mate disappoints or if they see something better they know to simply get divorce papers and move on with their lives. It happened in Moses’ day as a way to protect the woman in the community who was “sent away” and it was still happening when Jesus came along to tell them what God was intending when he gave the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” When we disobey, the sin compounds itself and gives birth to more sin.
Jesus goes on to say, don’t make vows you don’t plan to keep and do not swear by anything to make the vow more binding. It is better not to make a vow at all! This doesn’t work in God’s Kingdom thinking and behaving. Simply say yes, given what you presently know and plan to accomplish in what you have been asked to do or say no I cannot do this. What does this mean? Jesus will explain it later in a parable. (See Matthew 21:28-32)
Don’t say you will do something and embellish it with vow swearing by whatever you choose to make your point valid, when you don’t really plan to carry it out. It’s a heart issue! We don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t even know what is on my agenda in the next hour! How then can we make a vow, swearing by all that is holy, to carry it out? Jesus says, don’t go there in the first place.
“God willing and the creek don’t rise” we used to say in Oklahoma where I grew up. I think this gets a little closer to what Jesus is trying to point out. Only God knows what circumstances will present themselves in this life on changeable earth. So, yes or no is all we need as an answer to whatever is asked of us. What really works is to always say yes to God first and everything else will fall into place on HIS agenda. Trust the One who holds tomorrow. May our yes to God be honest, holy and sincere. Do not swear by anything to God. Just a simple yes will do.
Saying “I love you” each day to the one I’ve have loved for over fifty years of my life in our marriage together is not merely a vow but a declaration of our love for each new day. After reading this portion of God’s Word I am learning that God wants our love, devotion and commitment with each new day, too. His mercies are new each morning, so our best response is love and worship to Him who created us and the day ahead. God only knows. Remember that! I’m reminded of a song, (imagine that, shocker)! But seriously it is an old gospel song, “I don’t Know Who Holds Tomorrow, But I Know Who Holds My Hand”. I can still hear my uncle singing it. He probably still sings it in heaven to the One who have has given him an eternity of tomorrows!
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 CEV
Philippians 4:11-13 (CSB) reminds us, “How encouraging is it that God pours out His love for us that His mercies are new every day. Every day is a new day in which we can move in a direction that defines our eternity.”
Matthew—The Law Fulfilled
Matthew 5:27-37, NLT
Teaching about Adultery
27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Teaching about Divorce
31 “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.
Teaching about Vows
33 “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.
Abba, Father in Heaven,
Hallowed and holy are you, Lord. You are the One and Only to me. You are love, mercy and grace. You are Provider and Protector. You are Savior and Lord. You are the only one who knows what tomorrow will bring, so I simply say yes to you. Continue to teach me your ways, for I am yours.
In Jesus Name, Amen