Matthew 5:33-37
The Definition of Discipleship

Matthew 5:33-37

  The Accepted Standard (v. 33) “You have heard it was said…”

  1. Ex. 20:7, Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.
  2. Lev. 19:12, Don’t swear by God’s name falsely.
  3. Num. 30:2, Don’t break your vows before God. (See also Ecc. 5:1-7)
  4. Dt. 23:21, Don’t delay in paying your vow.


 The Actual Standard (vv. 34-36) “…but I say say to you…”

  1. “Do not swear at all.”
  2. Do not swear by anything - Official oaths are acceptable. (Matt. 26:63-64, 2 Cor. 1:23, Gal. 1:20) Oaths made in common speech are not.


The Approved Standard (v. 37)

  1. Keep your word.
  2. Tell the truth.
  3. Shading your word is evil.

More to Consider

Booker T. Washington describes meeting an ex-slave from Virginia in his book Up From Slavery : "I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom he pleased.

"Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some three hundred dollars.

Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, this black man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands.

In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not have to pay his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise."

Douglas E. Moore


Jesus' teaching confronts everyone with a tongue. Everyone makes promises they cannot keep, then breaks them. Everyone bends or fractures the truth. Consider when we are most prone to break a promise: We violate words spoken to the powerless-children-much more than we break promises to the powerful. We break invisible commitments (nursery duty) more than visible ones (teaching).

No one masters the tongue, because no one has a pure heart. So this word from Jesus the teacher leads to Jesus the Savior. The one who declared God's word at the start of his ministry gave his life as an atoning sacrifice for those who disobeyed that word.

Dan Doriani