Saturday, January 14, 2006

To Swear Or Not

I got a letter in the mail from the county the other day informing me that beginning the middle of February I'll be on call to serve as a trial juror. I've done that once before, about 13 years ago. Then, I had to go downtown each day for 2 weeks and hang around waiting to be needed. Man that was boring. This time I'm in a different county (or maybe it's just that times have changed?) so I only need to call in each evening to see whether I have to report the next day. If not, I go to work.

Anyway, the reason for this post is the whole idea of oaths. In Matthew 5, Jesus said approximately "don't swear at all, let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything more comes from evil." I'm not sure if I'm being legalistic or obedient, but last time I had jury duty that verse came to mind just before they began swearing people in, though it never occurred to me beforehand that I'd need to address that issue in court (duh!) I discussed it quickly with the clerk, who suggested a "Quaker's Affirmation", which eased my mind. I don't suppose that it's too far from an oath, but it's different enough to satisfy me. It just affirms that now, as always, what I say will be the truth.

Every Christian I talked to after my first jury duty said that they thought oaths in court were okay, that Jesus was only addressing frivilous oaths. But when I read Matthew 5 (and also James 5, where he says, "Above all, brothers, do not swear..." it seems clear enough to me that not swearing is the route to go. I think that come February, I'll be "affirming" my word again rather than "swearing".


Blogger kerux said...

Hey Derifter! Nice to see you posting again...

Just have a second here, so thought i would pass along the section on oaths and swearing from the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. At the very least it gives many Scriptures to consider in this issue.

Happy New Year!



Paragraph 1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgment, solemnly calls God to witness what he swears,1 and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof.2
1 Exod. 20:7; Deut. 10:20; Jer. 4:2
2 2 Chron. 6:22, 23

Paragraph 2. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all holy fear and reverence; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred;3 yet as in matter of weight and moment, for confirmation of truth, and ending all strife, an oath is warranted by the word of God;4 so a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority in such matters, ought to be taken.5
3 Matt. 5:34,37; James 5:12
4 Heb. 6:16; 2 Cor. 1:23
5 Neh. 13:25

Paragraph 3. Whosoever takes an oath warranted by the word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he knows to be truth; for that by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked, and for them this land mourns.6
6 Lev. 19:12; Jer. 23:10

Paragraph 4. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.7
7 Ps. 24:4

Paragraph 5. A vow, which is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone, is to be made and performed with all religious care and faithfulness;8 but popish monastical vows of perpetual single life,9 professed poverty,10 and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.11
8 Ps. 76:11; Gen. 28:20-22
9 1 Cor. 7:2,9
10 Eph. 4:28
11 Matt. 19:1

January 15, 2006 7:27 AM  
Blogger DErifter said...

It may well be "acceptable" to swear an oath, however it seems to me that not to swear may be better. Given the choice to swear or affirm, I feel inclined to affirm. That I can do with a clear conscience. Thanks for the references though, I appreciate your taking the time to do that.

January 15, 2006 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Josh said...

Hey, derifter. How about them Steelers?

Well, man, I thought your post on swearing was pretty great. I can see that you've thought about this a lot and I love that you take Christ's commands so seriously.

I wanted to ask you a favor. I've been doing a lot of behind the scenes retooling of my website. I'm not ready to go live with it yet, but I wanted you to take a "sneak preview" of it and give me any suggestions you have. I'm asking a few people that have been active on it to do that.

The temporary location of the "rough draft" for the new site is:

It may load a little slow because it's stored on a slow server while I'm tinkering with it. It's also not completely polished yet. I'll be adding some new articles I've been writing later on this week. I'm mainly trying to get advice about design and layout right now.

Thanks for your help, man. I'll catch you soon.

January 17, 2006 3:02 AM  
Blogger John said...

The passage must be read within the context of Jewish practice of the day, when oaths were deliberately broken acceptably and without incurring sin if one swore by particular objects.

January 20, 2006 5:27 AM  
Blogger DErifter said...

Hi John,

If that were the case, wouldn't that have been addressed by the first part about "You have heard it said, do not break your oath..."? He could have just re-iterated the importance of keeping your word and left it at that.
Basically, "take your oaths seriously" which is what they're asking you to do in court when you're sworn.

But then what was Jesus getting at when He said, "But I tell you do not swear at all..."?

January 21, 2006 10:11 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home