Helio Carnassali writes from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I. Introduction

Personality has the power to open many doors, but character keeps them open.

When the Spirit of God moves into a man's heart, he will make that man generous, but he will never make a fool out of him. He will make the man happy, but he will never make him silly. He may make him sad with the woe and the weight of the world's grief, but he will never let him become a gloomy cynic. The Holy Spirit will make him warmhearted and responsive, but he will never cause him to do things of which he will be ashamed later. -Tozer

Jesus Christ fulfills the Law and the Prophets. His standard of righteousness is higher than that of the scribes and Pharisees.

II. The law

Jesus' statement in Matthew. 5: 33, probably refers to Leviticus 19:12 and Deuteronomy 23:23. The third commandment, (Exod. 20:7) prohibits using God's name to bolster a falsehood.

A. The commandments in the Law prohibited false swearing, but they did not forbid using God's name to affirm the truth. Numerous examples abound in the Old Testament of vows both to God and to men, as in Numbers 30:1, 2; Deuteronomy 6:13; 23:21- 23; Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5.

B. The Jews to whom Jesus spoke had developed a system of gradation of oaths so that one's obligation to abide by his vow or to tell the truth was in proportion to the value of that by which he swore. Some rabbis held that only oaths that referred to God were binding. Swearing by Moses, by the law, by the temple, by my life, etc. had become common and really meant nothing with reference to the integrity and truthfulness of the one using them.

III. Jesus replied:

"Swear Not at All" (Matt. 5:34-37).

A. This was a principle rather than a rule.

1. Jesus was not forbidding a Christian to be placed on oath in court. This is clear if we interpret what He said by what He did. Jesus allowed Himself to be put on oath before Caiaphas the high priest, (see Matthew 26:63-65.)
2. Paul did not understand Jesus to prohibit sincere oaths. He frequently appealed to God (Rom. 1:9; Gal. 1:20; 1 Thess. 5:27).

B. A Christian will not need to be put on oath. His yes is yes; his no is no. He is a person of integrity. Jesus said in effect that since God is the Creator of everything one cannot swear by anything that does not refer to God. Heaven is His throne; earth is His footstool; Jerusalem is His city; you are His creation. When one swears by anything to bolster a falsehood one is in effect taking God's name in vain (i.e., a falsehood). There is no need for a Christian to swear by anything.

IV. Application

A. A Christian is truthful.

1. Truthful with God. God is not mocked. No man can fool God. He knows the motives, the intent of the heart out of which the mouth speaks.
2. Truthful with fellowmen. Words are deeds. They are the medium of communication. Words are signals to another. If the signals are false, one deceives his neighbor. Earlier Jesus had condemned the use of such words as "stupid," "blockhead," "scoundrel," to stir up anger. He here affirms that words are useful to convey information, but lying by any means in order to get an advantage over another is wrong and stands condemned.

3. Exod. 20:16 is the ninth commandment. The immediate reference seems to be to perjury in court. It has, however, a much wider application. A Christian will not harm his fellowman by lying. His yea is yea; his no is no.

The Christian businessman is expected to represent his product accurately. A man in Tulsa promised to sell a herd of cattle at a certain price if the offer was accepted within two weeks. During those days the price of cattle rose sharply. Other buyers offered to buy the cattle at a higher price. Although nothing was in writing and no earnest money had been paid, his word was as good as his bond. He lost several hundred dollars but retained the respect of everyone.

A Christian is expected to be true to his marriage vows, true to his baptismal vows. Christ calls His disciples to integrity and truthfulness.

V. Conclusion

Although misunderstandings may result between people of integrity, the Lord never misunderstands. He knows the heart. One can never be right with his fellow man unless he is first right with God.


"Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it. -Penn.

"A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another's." -Johann Paul Friedrich Richter.

"God has a program of character development for each one of us. He wants others to look at our lives and say, "He walks with God, for he lives like Christ." -Erwin W. Lutzer.

Helio Carnassali writes from Sao Paulo, Brazil.