Saturday, June 24, 2006

Why do people take an oath on a book against oaths?

Here is a thought I have come across in my reflections from time to time. It is about taking oaths, making promises, vows, and swearing. It is right out of the Bible in Mathew Ch. 5, just a little after that Sermon on the Mount that says all the less advantaged people are going to have their rewards.

5:33 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: 5:34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 5:35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 5:36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

And here is a little easier to read version for all the KJV impaired out there

33"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Some people might interpret this as to mean, when you promise, do not promise on anything at all but just say, “I am going to ______”. But I tend to focus on the part that says “Swear not at all”. To me, this means people should not really going around making “promises” to each other but clearly explain what is going on. Saying things like “I am doing _____ and I plan on doing ______.”

The problem in life is like we do not have any power to even really change the color of our hair, we do not have any power to say what we will and will not do in the future. Things happen, life’s get changed, and promises that were made with full intention of being fulfilled are broken. Heart burn and stomach aches make us miss work and car wrecks and exploding buildings make us never come back. In a world of instability, you simply just can’t say “I promise to _____” and know for sure you can do really do it.

Take one of the most famous promises in current culture, the wedding vow, for instance. There is a 50% divorce rate, which means a lot of people think they will be married for their whole life but instead don’t do everything they promised.

Likewise, very commonly on TV you hear the whole phrase of “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” on court TV shows. Isn’t this going completely against what the Bible says not to do? I find it so ironic that people swear on a book that specifically says “do not swear”.

And how about all the fraternal organizations and secret societies, aren’t they for the most part suppose to have some kind of ritualized oath but at the same time claiming to be “Christian”?

Anyway, there are a hundred other ways that people claiming to be Christian do act in ways that seem to be not “Christian” according to my intuition but I know I don’t know it all and so I don’t condemn anyone but at the same time I wanted to bring this up to see what anyone else thought about this.