Pinky promise- Saturday- 10th Week in ordinary time- Mt 5:33-37
At the heart of these six hyper theses is the desire of Jesus to restore the law of the kingdom of God. This law had been distorted by the Scribes and Pharisees and that is why Jesus begins this pericope by saying, “and again you have heard that it was said to you.” In saying this He is directly challenging the authority of the Scribes and Pharisees and clarifying the intended law of God.
What is at stake in the fourth hyper theses is the issue of oaths or vows. Principally, the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments say nothing about swearing of oaths or vows. What it does say is that God’s name must not be taken in vain and that one should not bear false witness. So it was the Pharisees who carried out this personalized agenda of promoting the notion of oaths and vows, and that too in an unethical fashion.
Matthew 23: 16- 19 gives us a better insight into the mind of the Jewish leaders on the matter of oaths. For the Jewish authorities, the importance of an oath was measured by the value of what it was sworn by. So for the Scribes and Pharisees, if you swear by the temple, it counts for nothing; however if you swear by the gold of the temple then you are bound.
Clearly the agenda behind the observance of these oaths is clear. It is not God driven but man driven and perhaps worse, money driven. Jesus commands us not to swear at all and not to swear by anything, for there is nothing in creation that is not from God and not dependent on Him.
Cleary it sounds foolish to offer God a gold chain or our little ‘what-not’s’, in lieu of a favour. Such a ‘deal’ is not a prayer but a bargain, by which we turn the omnipotent God into a bargaining grocer. If we so choose to give God or to His Church, we must give for love’s sake.
The crux of this passage is in the command of Jesus; “Let your word be Yes or No; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Jesus wants us to speak the truth in all matters, especially important matters, but He wants us to do it plainly. If we do so, then the taking of oaths becomes irrelevant. Our word must be enough. People should see a Christian and say ‘this is a person who keeps his word’.
God gave us His ‘word’, Jesus and He kept His word. In 2 Corinthians 1:17-19 we are reminded that ‘Jesus is the ‘permanent yes’ of God to us.’ So doubting God is a foolish exercise, for He keeps His word even though we may break ours.
Fr Warner D’Souza
References from the JBC