From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Political Order
Endless discussions about contracts will never satisfy good consciences unless they know the rule that it is lawful for a Christian to make use of civil ordinances and laws. This rule protects consciences because it teaches that contracts are lawful before God if they are approved by magistrates or laws.
Pulling It Together: Obviously, we make contracts, such as in marriage or making a major purchase like a house or car. Because Jesus said, “Do not take an oath at all,” we may feel guilty when we do make contractual promises. The issue here is not what we sometimes think it is. The law tells us to swear by the name of God (Deut 6:13). In this context, we see that promises are made and broken (re: marriage, Matt 5:31–32). So Jesus is talking along some other line.
The kind of oath Jesus is referring to goes something like this: “I swear on my mother’s grave that I’ll do it by tomorrow.” Christians should not do this for a very simple reason: they are to always tell the truth. Indeed, they should be known for telling the truth. Therefore, they need only say, “Yes” or “No.” They will either do the thing or not. Employing the memory of a parent, or worse, the name of God is as unnecessary for the Christian as adding, “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” Only liars feel the need to swear.
None of this forbids civil contracts—nor does Scripture.
Prayer: Lord, help me to tell the truth and keep my promises. Amen.
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