Matthew 5:33–37: “You Shall Not Swear Falsely”

by Apr 25, 20220 comments

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Jesus began his teaching on the law with attention catching issues of murder and adultery; however, as we discovered, Jesus showed that the full breadth of the Sixth and Seventh Commandments extends all the way down to the depths of our souls. In Matthew 5:33–37, Jesus brings to our attention an often overlooked concern of God’s moral law: our honesty and truthfulness. Once again, Jesus surprises us with the full breadth of the law, showing us that the moral law about bearing false witness—particularly in swearing oaths and vows—has far more to teach us about God’s requirements for our speech than we might think. Moreover, we see once again Jesus’ redemptive role reflected from his teaching, since Jesus came to fulfill God’s promises.

Discussion Questions

1. What do some of the Old Testament texts that Jesus is summarizing in v. 33 actually say (e.g., Ex. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Deut. 5:11; 6:13; 23:21–23)? What did the Pharisees hope to gain by focusing on the statements about swearing by the Lord’s name in these passages? How do their “subtle, hair-splitting distinctions” both create a number of new laws and relax the overall weight of the law? How did they violate both the Third and the Ninth Commandments?

2. Why doesn’t Jesus apply Third Commandment concerns to man as the image of God in v. 36? What does Jesus identify instead as the problem with swearing by one’s head? What does swearing by our own bodies reflect about our control and sovereignty over our bodies? How much control do we really have over our bodies? How should our speech reflect our vulnerability and dependency in our lives?

3. Why should our yes be yes, and our no be no? What does Jesus prohibit by this statement? What does he demand? Why do you think we are so prone to search for loopholes in our speech? Does Jesus mean that we may never make oaths? Where do we see oaths used in a positive sense throughout the Bible? In what contexts and settings would oaths be not only permissible, but necessary, today?

4. How does untruthfulness reflect the character of Satan (John 8:44)? How does truth reflect the character of Jesus (John 14:6)? What did God promise about Jesus in eternity past (Rom. 16:25–27)? How does Jesus fulfill those promises, and at what cost does that fulfillment come (2 Cor. 1:20)? How, then, should our own gospel ministry employ clear, straightforward, honest and open statement of the truth (2 Cor. 4:2)?