Skip to content

6. The Fourth Woe
(Matthew 23:16-22)
16“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’17Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?18And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’19Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?20Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.21He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.22And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it. (Matthew5:34-37,15:14)

He who swears to support his words is suspect, for he may intend, by swearing, to cover the uncertainty of his words. The Pharisees fell into a difficulty: They wanted to hide their lies by means of a strong oath. But, they were not allowed to pronounce the name of God in vain, for the mere mention of His name was considered blasphemy. So they suggested that man should not swear by God's temple, but by the golden crust of the temple. They also considered swearing by the altar of God a terrible thing. Therefore, they suggested the offering bought by money was suitable to swear by. Thus, they laid the net of their judgments on people, pulled them in, and took them further away from God.
Christ addressed this when he disallowed using an oath to verify the truth, saying that every word of ours should be true. In His explanations about the Pharisees' swearing, He did not cancel His commandment that we should never swear, but wanted to remind us that we are responsible before God and His throne. He also said our "yes" should mean "yes" and our "no" mean "no". How then shall we appear? As honest men or women, or as liars?

Our Lord Jesus, You are the holy Judge. You begin Your judgments with us. We are Your followers, and You have laid woes on the hypocrites. Free us from every hypocrisy that we may keep away from lying, cheating, and pride. Help us to accept Your truth, honesty, and faithfulness. We beg Your pardon for every inequity, stupidity, ignorance, and incomplete repentance. Sanctify us that we may not perish, but speak truthfully and rightfully at all times in the wisdom of your Holy Spirit.
How did Christ overcome the problem of superficial oaths?