What About Swearing Oaths?

There are two kinds of oaths commonly used in our culture.  The most common, of course, is the vulgar, obscene, and blasphemous expression in which an individual asks God to damn this or that.  This violates the Third of God's Ten Commandments - "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Exodus 20:7). 

 The second type of oath is used in our courts of justice in which one "swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth - so help me God."  It is also the oath we take when entering the military or accepting a federal office.  In this oath, we swear before God to "support and defend the Constitution from enemies within and without."  If we violate the courtroom oath, we become guilty of perjury and are subject to imprisonment.  This violates the Ninth of God's Ten Commandments.  "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" (Exodus 20:16). If we violate our oath in the military or public office (from the President down), we be become a Benedict Arnold - a traitor to our self and our country and worthy of imprisonment or even death. 

 There was a time when such things as courage, honor, and integrity had real meaning in the hearts and souls of almost every American.  They were part and parcel of our moral fiber.   Today, it seems that to many, "they are just words."  Words do have meaning.  Try calling your wife or girlfriend "Jezebel."  The misuse of words should and do have repercussions.  The swearing of a solemn oath should be considered serious business.  By definition, an oath is a solemn promise that usually calls on God as a witness.   

 Jesus admonished His disciples, in contrast to the Law of Moses, in the famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), "But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:  Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil" (5:34-37). 

 This admonition was echoed by James, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation" (James 5:12).  As a consequence we modify our public oaths to state, "I swear (or affirm) . . ." This accommodation to conscience of many Believers is simply one more proof that our national roots are in God and His book the Bible.

 Dale I. Royal, Elk City OK