Rash Religious Language

At first glance, this saying of Jesus seems to have little to do with us today. Jews of His time were obviously profaning God’s name by using extravagant oaths to confirm their testimony, something we don’t do today, partly under the influence of this teaching. Looking deeper, however, we find that our Lord has exposed a common human fault- talking too much. In particular, religious folk tend to lard their language with pious-sounding phrases that give an air of devotion to God, but really express contempt for Him. The sayings Jesus quotes come from the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:12; Deuteronomy 23:23) and forbid two kinds of sin: Speaking falsely under oath, and failing to perform a vow made to God. The first violates the 9th commandment, “You shall not bear false witness,” and the second violates the 3rd commandment, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” When we swear falsely, we speak what is not true. When we do not keep a promise have made to the Lord, we are not true to what we have spoken. Both are clearly wrong. A less obvious sin, but one that equally offends the Lord, is to talk glibly about God, or about God. Elsewhere, Jesus condemns useless repetition in prayer (Matthew 6:7-8). He also warns us simply not to talk too much: “For every idle word that men may speak, they will give account of it on the day of judgment” (Matthew12:36). Here, however, Jesus teaches us to honor God and to express our reverence for Him by exercising great caution when speaking of our devotion to Him. Let us not quickly make promises that we may not be able to keep; fill the air with religious language that does not come from the heart and goes beyond what God has revealed or requires; or trivialize God and His name with terms that do not reflect an awareness of His majesty and sovereign rule of the universe and of our own lives.