top of page

Matthew 5:33-37

Integrity means your words line up with your actions.

Tom Faletti

May 2, 2024

Matthew 5:33-37 Oaths: what are you saying?


What did the Old Testament Law say about oaths in Leviticus 19:12?  What kind of oaths were prohibited?  (See also Deuteronomy 23:21-23.)


In Jesus’s time, Jews made oaths and vows frequently and casually.  William Barclay says they developed arcane rules for which oaths actually had to be honored and which could be ignored without repercussions (Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, p. 157).  If you didn’t include God himself in your oath, it didn’t “count.”


What does Jesus say about oaths?


What are the reasons behind Jesus’s prohibit of these oaths?

We do not have control over the heavens, the earth, or even our own bodies, so we have no right to be swearing by them.


What do you think about Jesus’s rule, and why?


If I leave the heavens, etc., out of my oath is it OK?  Or is Jesus making a bigger point?


How often do you make promises?  How seriously do you take your promises?  How do respond when someone says, “Promise me you’ll . . .”?


Some people often signal that they are about to say something honest with a phrase such as: “I’m not going to lie to you,” “Frankly,” “To tell the truth,” etc.  I sometimes wonder, when such people say other things that are not prefaced by that assurance, whether that means that what they are about to say might not be the truth.


How honest are you in your everyday dealings with people?  Can others count on what you are saying to be true, or do you have a tendency to shade the truth?


Why does Jesus say that anything more than “Yes” or “No” comes from the evil one?

Jesus is saying that a truly good person would never need to take an oath because everything he or she says would always be the truth.  If a person needs to add an oath to what they are saying, it is a sign that they have already made compromises with untruthfulness that tarnish their honesty.


Why do we sometimes want to embellish what we say by adding a promise?  What is the purpose of adding a promise?

Some reasons might be: to assure, or to impress.


What would it look like to live a life where your “Yes” is so solid that no one would ever feel the need to ask you to swear that what you are saying is true?


How can we foster a world where the truth is so cherished that people don’t feel the need to make oaths?



Take a step back and consider this:


Jesus’s words about honesty in speech are not isolated.  They appear right after he asked us to squarely confront our thought life to tame lust, and asked us to be true to our marriage commitments no matter what.  He is getting at something bigger than just a series of individual character issues or types of sin.  He is pointing us toward true integrity.


Integrity is the characteristic of a person who is solid through and through – where the inside of the person and the outside of the person match up and demonstrate a consistent morality.  When you look at them, what you see on the outside is what they actually are on the inside.  What they say is actually true.  What they spend their time thinking about is consistent with the ethical principles they profess.  What they do is what they say they will do, and what they do is what God has taught them to do.


The word “integrity” comes from a Latin word that means whole or complete in the sense of being intact, unbroken, undivided.  The person of integrity is undivided.  Their whole being is intact.  They are one person – the same person inside and out.


That is what Jesus is calling us to be. 


How can you cultivate a character of integrity?


How might you consider changing the way you talk and act – the things you say and do – in order to ensure that integrity defines your character?


How might you consider changes in your thought life, so that the you on the outside matches the you on the inside and matches what God is calling you to be inside and out?



Click here for the bibliography.

Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

Please Join the Conversation!

If you are a member and would like to react to or ask a question about any topic here, please post a question in the forum below. You are also encouraged to continue the conversation in any post by posting a response. Join the conversation here:

bottom of page