Lent Devotional: Matthew 5:33-37

by Jonathan Haefs

Matthew 5:33-37 (click here)
…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. (Matthew 5:36-37)

We like to think we are in control. We like to think we can determine what is going to happen. Yet, we cannot even make one hair on our head white or black (excluding modern dying practices…we’re talking about really changing the color of our hair as it grows…we can’t do that).

Swearing an oath is rooted in the assumption that we can control what is going to happen. Invoking things to guarantee our oaths (like “I swear to God”) actually dares to assert our authority over the things by which we are swearing. It is like we need to add the authority or character of something else to our word because somehow we are not trustworthy without this added authority.

The purpose of Jesus words here in Matthew 5 are not to prevent us from making promises, but to simply be the kind of people who do not need to reinforce their word because we already exude trustworthy character.

So far as it depends upon us, we keep our word. We recognize that we do not have ultimate control, but we mean it when we say “yes” or “no” and we will do all we can to keep our word.

Ultimately, we are a people of our word, because we serve a God who keeps his word. The way to honor the Lord in all our promise making is not be “swearing by him,” but by being faithful to what we say as he is faithful to what he says.

Our God keeps his word. As his people, we are to keep our word in so far as it depends upon us. As a faithful people, we are pointing to our faithful Lord.

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.