Swearing by God’s Throne is Forbidden
But I say to you, 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 (Matthew 5:34-35).
Jesus told his followers not to even swear by heaven because heaven is the throne (Thronos) of God (Matthew 5:34)! But, what does it mean to swear? Usually swearing accompanies profane language. However, swearing can also mean to take an oath, give evidence, or make a solemn declaration. How often have you heard the phrase, “I swear to God?” You’ve probably used this phrase once or twice in your life as well. When we really want to get our point across, we feel the need to swear by a higher power. Yet, Jesus told His followers to stop this practice.
Why did Jesus forbid swearing? Let’s look to the New Testament scriptures to find out what was happening in the first century that would prompt our Lord to have a sit down with His people about all the swearing that was going on. In fact, the first century Jews were no strangers to swearing since it is mentioned 27 times in the Greek New Testament. But what was all the swearing about?
Religious men swore by Heaven (Matthew 5:34)
Religious men swore by Earth (Matthew 5:35)
Religious men swore by Jerusalem (Matthew 5:35)
Religious men swore by their own heads (Matthew 5:36)
Religious men swore by the Temple (Matthew 23:16)
Religious men swore by the gold of the Temple (Matthew 23:16)
Religious men swore by the altar (Matthew 23:20)
Religious men swore by the offering on the altar (Matthew 23:18)
Religious men swore by something greater than themselves (Hebrews 6:16)
Sometimes they just swore-i.e. profanity (Matthew
It seems that the first century religious Jews were no different from our time. Their messages were “puffed” up with lofty oaths that were used to garner acceptance from the masses. Men who desired greatness would swear by the heavens, the Temple, and even the city of Jerusalem. They wanted people to know that they had a direct line to the Almighty, and they swore by Him without His permission.
How often do we use our words to impress others? I am sure you have listened to conversations where the main speaker is “name dropping” just to get the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the audience; or F-bombs are released with rapid fire in hopes that this will somehow add weight to weak words. Nowadays, it is quite common to shell out your hard-earned money just to listen to comedians swear repeatedly as part of their show. Why is swearing so prevalent? There are many reasons why we puff up our words through profanity and name dropping, but swearing demonstrates the lack of character to confirm your words.[i]
If you find yourself puffing up your words, you need to have a sit down with the Word of God. Jesus told the first century Jews to stop swearing, and He is telling the 21st century Christians to stop it too. The good news? We have the Holy Spirit to empower us to live the way Jesus wants His servants to live.
As we enter into a day set apart for celebrating Christ’s birth, let’s look a little deeper at His often overlooked teachings. One great way to honor the Lord this Christmas season is to revisit the Gospels and begin to live in the light of His eternal word. Remember, Jesus is the light of the world, and His followers will walk and talk in His light.