“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 this comes from evil.”
In this passage, Jesus was speaking not against oaths themselves, but against the abuses of oaths and the corresponding abuse of the truth that went with them.
We see this most clearly when we look at the positive teaching about oaths throughout Scripture. For instance, as far back as in the book of Deuteronomy, we hear Moses commanding the people, “fear the Lord your God and serve Him. Hold fast to Him and take your oaths in His name” (Deut. 10:20). In the New Testament, Paul frequently swears by the Lord crying, “As God as my witness” (Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23).
Well, if it is true that the taking of oaths is approved throughout the Bible, why is it that the Lord Jesus commands us, “Do not take an oath at all”? The answer is that in Jesus’ day the taking of oaths had been greatly abused, and it had come about that the practice was actually weakening the cause of the truth rather than contributing to it.
In Palestine in the time of Jesus, there were two unsatisfactory things about the taking of oaths. The first was taking an oath when it was neither necessary nor proper.
The second perversion of the proper use of oaths was worse. It was evasive swearing. People who were afraid to swear by the name of the Lord because they were not telling the full truth began to swear by things. For example, some swore by their own life, their own health, or by the king. Jesus actually condemns the Pharisees for this type of swearing (Matt. 23:16-22).
Jesus warns: “But let what you say simply be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, anything more comes from Evil.” This is a warning, an admonishment that we should treasure. We should hold this warning dear to us and speak the truth, if we do no, then we are being evil.
Truth has no degrees or shades. A half-truth is a whole lie, and a whole lie is an abomination in the eyes of God. God has never had any standard lower than absolute truthfulness of every person. The Bible says that He “desires truth in the innermost being” (Ps. 51:6). Among the things He especially hates is “a lying tongue” (Prov. 6:16-17).
Are you a person of truth? Does your “yes” mean “yes” and your “no” mean “no”? Are you a person of your word? When you say you're going to do something, are you faithful to follow through? Do you give your best when doing it? Of the Christian, this should be true in your walk with God, your marriage, your family, your church, your job, and in your community.