Let Your “Yes” Mean “Yes” and Your “No” Mean “No”

Jesus’s teaching on oath-taking

Dear brothers and sisters, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

The fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel records Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (the Beatitudes) and some of His great teachings on the law and its significance. Jesus Christ stated that He did not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them, thus giving new meaning and understanding of the law and its observance.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus Christ taught us about oath-taking. It is a continuation of giving new meaning and understanding of the law as was given to the people and observed by them. Even though the ancestors were allowed to take oaths, except for taking them falsely, and were also asked to make good of their oaths by being faithful to them, Jesus said to His listeners, “Do not swear at all,” not by heaven or earth or Jerusalem. Reflecting on this, I do not think we should take Jesus Christ’s teaching literally to mean an absolute or total prohibition of all oath-taking or swearing. Instead, Jesus was demanding something more than oath-taking. He was demanding his listeners to be truthful, sincere, and honest.

Always Speak the Truth and Be Sincere

People swear or take oaths to attest to the truth of their statements or actions and, by so doing, invoke the name of a supreme being or deity as their witness. However, such invocation is unnecessary if one is truthful and sincere. Such invocation is unwarranted if one has no guile or deceit in one’s mind and actions. In line with that, Jesus said to his listeners and indeed to us, let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Anything more is from the evil one.

This reminds me of Jesus Christ’s testimony of Nathaniel, as recorded in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit (duplicity or guile in other translations)” (Jn. 1:47). Such should be the testimony given for every Christian, an authentic and true Christian without deceit or guile. Thus, as Christians, we should always act to maintain our Christian ideals. Our Christian ideals are our moral identity. Sincerity, integrity, honesty, probity, truthfulness, etc., are our Christian ideals, and they are higher virtues than oath-taking or swearing. Therefore, let us do our best to be truthful and sincere and keep to our word so that our ‘yes’ would mean ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ would mean ‘no.’

Always remember that Jesus loves you!

[Readings:1 Kings 19:19-21; Matthew 5:33-37]

Fr. Sylvanus Amaobi

Fr. Sylvanus Ifeanyi Amaobi is from Nkume in Imo State of Nigeria. He is the second Child of a family of seven, three males and four females to Mr. Sylvanus U. Amaobi and Late Mrs Veronica C. Amaobi. He is the Pastor of St. Cecilia Catholic Church, Claremore Oklahoma in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. Email address: [email protected]. Phone numbers: Office, 9183412343.


  1. Sylvanus Amaobi on June 15, 2024 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you for your contribution. Like you, I do not think Jesus intended to condemn such an oath as you stated in your contribution. In some situations, oath-taking gives credence to witnesses, especially, in the court of law.

  2. Jerry DEMELO Jr on June 15, 2024 at 10:35 am

    California has long abandoned adding “so help me God” to an oath in court when a witness is “put under oath” to testify in a proceeding. However In my court, my clerk was a believer though not Catholic, so I restored the practice of swearing to “testify to the truth so help you God.” The idea has always been that the person is not only seeking divine assistance to testify truthfully even if the facts be personally awkward or embarrassing, but being unknown to the judge or jury, the person is also invoking God’s wrath if lying after invoking Him in a court proceeding -where another person’s life or liberty is at stake if falsely convicted due to a lying witness. I do not think Jesus intended to condemn such an oath but would be interested in your thoughts. God bless you for all you do.

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