A Hard Text about Swearing

Isabella’s brother-in-law Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained Bible verses that might seem confusing at first. Here’s one he wrote in 1889:


Matthew 5: 33-37:

33. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said of them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

35. Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Image of open Bible

With these words in mind, how, then, do good men swear on the witness stand in the court-room?

That is intended to be a solemn, religious thing, for the sake of truth and law and justice. It sets the fear of God before the witness to deter him from falsehood, and the love of God to lead him to tell the truth.

The spirit of prayer is in it.

Our Hard Text refers to profane, wicked, idle swearing. It is taking the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain. It is very common in ordinary conversation among many people. They curse and swear “by” this and “by” that, just for fun, or to make folks believe them, usually when they are telling a lie. At last it becomes a vile, dreadful habit, and in almost every sentence they swear. Many little children do this. It is an awful sin. It leads to destruction.

Shun the first step in that direction. Have a character for truth. Consecrate your tongue to Christ as He died on the cross to redeem your entire body and soul from all sin.

Have you ever wondered if swearing a solemn oath was the same as swearing in ordinary conversation?

What do you think of Rev. Livingston’s explanation?


Click on the links below to read more of Reverend Livingston’s “Hard Text” articles:

A Hard Text

A Hard Text in Matthew

A Hard Text: Matthew, Mark and Luke