Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Word Should Be My Bond

I learned something very interesting as I studied my resolution for this month.

Matthew 5:33-37 says,

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

1) To "forswear thyself" means to "break your oath, or perjure yourself". I understood "perjury" to mean lying under oath, but I am not a lawyer, so I looked up "perjure" in the dictionary. It means, "to make (oneself) guilty of perjury by deliberately testifying falsely under oath." Therefore, the charge to "not forswear thyself" means literally to not say things "under oath" that you know are not true.

2) The charge to not forswear thyself is followed immediately by a follow-up charge to "perform unto the Lord thine oaths." It is this charge that I have misunderstood until now. I used to think it meant that we are supposed to hold our oaths (promises) sacred and perform them as if they were oaths made to the Lord, but, in the context of these verses, I've changed my mind in a significant way. I now read it as saying that when I make an oath (promise or covenant) with the Lord, I need to make sure I am able to "perform" that oath "unto (Him)". In other words, I can't forswear myself in my covenants with Him.

3) Verses 34-36 provide examples of ways that promises and covenants can be established on illegitimate foundations, then verse 27 lays out the new foundation for covenants and promises. Ultimately, this passage says that I am held accountable for my own actions - that I can't blame God (or the Devil) for anything I do.

4) Finally, my word should be good enough. If someone asks me to do something, I should be able to say, "Yes," or "No," and have that be enough.

That is a goal worth pursuing.


Ardis Parshall said...

There are some rituals, like the oath of office or being sworn before court testimony, that have a kind of impressiveness exactly because they are formal and ritual. But which is more powerful? those hands on the Bible and swearing to heaven, or the simplest possible agreement in accepting temple covenants?

In many cases you can judge veracity by considering how forceful someone makes his statement. A simple "Yes, I will" sounds candid and trustworthy. Adding "Honest! I really will!" makes you think twice about whether he really means it. Trustworthiness seems to go down the more someone piles on the "I swear on my mother's life!" and "Whatsa matter? Don't you believe me?" all the way down to the cursing and vulgarity which almost guarantees a broken promise. Funny how that works!

Papa D said...

Excellent point, Ardis. I hadn't thought about that aspect - the "Methinks thou dost protest too much" syndrome.

Thanks for pointing that out.

Mama D said...

"...when I make an oath (promise or covenant) with the Lord, I need to make sure I am able to "perform" that oath "unto (Him)". In other words, I can't forswear myself in my covenants with Him."

I love this statement with its focus on personal responsibility for performing/keeping our covenants with the Lord - showing Him through word and deed that we will not forswear ourselves in those covenants.

Stephen said...

I think it is really important to keep our truth and our word aligned.

I think it is one of the things that defines God.