Is It Wrong to Make a Vow or an Oath?

Little Lessons with David Servant

Read the transcript of this video below.

Is it wrong to make a vow or an oath? We’re working our way through the early part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and currently in chapter five, we’re asking a question. When Jesus six times said, “You have heard, but I say to you,” was He, as some folks say, raising the standard under the New Covenant and now expecting something out of His New Covenant followers that God never expected of anybody under the Law of Moses or prior to the Law of Moses?

Woman swearing in court, with hand on Bible

Of course, it’s easy to understand why some people might feel that way, but when you begin to dig a little bit deeper into what Jesus said and read it in the context of the entire Bible, you realize that that premise is a false premise, that Jesus wasn’t raising the standard, and in fact He was ministering under the Old Covenant.

The Law of Moses was still in full force, full effect, and it would be from the Sermon on the Mount for several years until the inauguration of the New Covenant, which everybody believes, anybody worth their salt, anyways, believes didn’t begin until at the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Okay?

Jesus wasn’t confusing His followers saying, “Well, you’re under the Old Covenant, but actually you’re under the New Covenant law, and we’re raising the standard, and everybody who wasn’t guilty in God’s eyes seconds ago, now that I’ve changed the law, all you non-guilty persons suddenly have become guilty, so lust was okay under the Old Covenant, but right now it’s wrong. Murder or hatred was not wrong under the Old Covenant. You could call your brother a fool, and you could say, ‘You good-for-nothing.’ That was okay until right now. Seconds ago you could do it and God wouldn’t get upset, but from now on, God’s going to get upset.”

That’s silly. That’s just silly. You’re implying that morality, fundamental morality, has changed, which is implying that fundamental moral aspects of God and His character have changed, because all of the God’s commandments emanate from His character, who He is, and He expects us then to imitate Him. Okay? I’ve proven, I think, beyond any shadow of a doubt in the first two of those six, “You have erred, but I say to you,” statements that there’s no way Jesus was raising the bar. I found the same standard in the Old Covenant.

Now, the third one involves divorce and remarriage, and I’m going to put a pause on that. I will come back to it, but it’s the most controversial and the most complex, so I think when we look at these other five first and come back to that, I think that it’ll make that one easier to understand, because we’re going to see the consistency all the way through because in that one, about divorce and remarriage, that’s the one that people are most apt to say, “Well, Jesus raised the bar, and this is something brand new that never existed before. Under the Old Covenant, divorce was permissible, but under the New Covenant it’s not,” etc., etc. Okay?

Hold that thought, would you please, and let’s look at the next one. Matthew chapter five and verse number 33, all about vows and oaths. Again, this is Jesus speaking. “You have heard that the ancients were told,” and He quotes, “You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.”

Now, stop and just think about that. Use the brain that God has given all of us and ask yourself a question. What could possibly be wrong with that commandment? How could you possibly improve on that commandment, raising the standard? What’s God going to say? “It’s okay to break your vows now”? No. That’s not the counterpoint at all. Okay? We’re going to read it in a second, but think about the commandment. Keep your vows.

Don’t be saying things, making a vow, and it’s a false vow. That is, you really don’t intend to keep it, or later on you don’t keep it because you changed your mind. That’s a form of lying, and God is a god of truth. God never lies, so here’s another commandment that emanates from His own character. He expects His people to also be truthful, and not just outwardly truthful, but God desires truth in the inner being, the innermost man, according to the Old Testament. Okay? I can’t find any fault with that. I can’t imagine how God could improve on that or raise the standard on this.

What is a vow? Well, it’s simple. Anyone knows what a vow is. You make a vow when you get married. “I’m going to love you and stay with you till death do us part.” What could be wrong with that? A vow, when you make a contract with someone and sign and say, “Here’s the stipulations of our business arrangement.” What could be wrong with that? Or if you say to the Lord, “I’m going to give You a tenth of everything that I earn,” what could be wrong with that? Unless you don’t keep your vow, unless you don’t intend to keep it, or ultimately then you don’t keep it. That’s the only thing that could be wrong.

We’re going to discover that the scribes in Pharisees had taken that very simple, most basic, fundamental, moral, ethical principle, and concocted a loophole to get around it so they could lie with impunity even when they made vows, solemn vows sworn with an oath. They figured out a way to, in their minds, fooling themselves, to circumvent a very clear command. We know that everything Jesus is correcting in the Sermon on the Mount is, He’s correcting Pharisaic teaching. That’s so plain. It’s going to become so plain in this one. You’ll see it beyond any shadow of a doubt, so don’t make false vows. That’s the command, and Jesus quotes, it’s a good quote.

You can find that several times in the Law of Moses or some form of it, “But I say to you,” Jesus said, “Make no oath at all.” Now, a lot of people stop right there and say, “See? Jesus changed it. Under the Old Covenant it was, ‘Don’t make false vows.’ Under the New Covenant it’s, ‘Don’t make any vow.'” Well, you’re wrong. You’re wrong, because you haven’t kept reading, because that’s not what Jesus said.

He did not say, “Do not make any oath at all.” He said, “Make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.” What is He forbidding? He’s not forbidding the making of vows. He’s forbidding the making of vows swearing, accompanied by a swearing with an oath.

Why is that? It’s so easy to understand. Anybody can understand it, because if you have to swear by something else, a human being, now, a human being, if you have to swear by something else, it proves your word can’t be trusted regularly otherwise, because you’re trying to persuade the person whom you’re making the vow to this time that, “This time, you can trust me. I can’t be trusted unless I make an oath, and I’m trying to convince you that this time me, myself, normally, who can’t be trusted, who is a liar, this time you can trust me because I’m trying to pull the wool over your eyes by swearing by the temple, or swearing by heaven, or swearing by the throne of God to woo and wow you into thinking that this time you can trust a liar.”

All right? Well, we’re out of time. More on this in our next Little Lesson. Thanks for joining me. God bless you.