Jesus says that His brothers and sisters should not even be using such seemingly mild exclamations as "Good heavens!" They are unnecessary, and more than that, Satan and his anti-God attitudes influence them.
Certainly, church members are not using four-letter words or blaspheming or profaning God's name. In part, the third commandment—prohibiting taking God's name in vain—deals with such matters. Rather, the words that some complain about are of another type: mild or watered-down versions of God's names or crude words for certain body parts or bodily functions. Though this sensitive theme may embarrass or offend, it needs to be covered.
For those who might be new to this subject, it is necessary to give warning about "substitute" swearwords such as "gosh," "golly," "jeez," "shoot," "shucks," "heck," "darn," and others. Such words are called euphemisms, literally "good speech." It does not take much thought to figure out what words these exclamations are substitutes for. We do not need them! The English language contains thousands of benign yet descriptive words and expressions that convey the same feeling or reaction.
Yet for those whose speech habits are deeply ingrained, it can be hard. Many of us have used bad language freely and frequently before conversion. Many of us are surrounded by foul language at work every day. A friend told me that, upon starting a job "in the world" after spending four years at Ambassador College, he was plagued by swearwords constantly coming to the tip of his tongue for the least little problem!
I do not wish to appear self-righteous in discussing this sensitive subject. I am not pointing a finger at others. Like many church members, I work in an office where I cannot even enjoy a cup of coffee with my coworkers because the air so frequently turns blue with bad language and filthy subject matter. Some of the women are as bad as the men—in some cases, worse! It can rub off on us and, like the proverbial frog in hot water, we can gradually come to accept gutter-language as the norm. We can become calloused to it, and we can allow it to creep into our everyday conversation.
Swear Not at All!
Should a Christian Swear an Oath (Matthew 5:33)?
The answer is that they should not! The Bible is very clear on this point: "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No,' lest you fall into judgment" (James 5:12).
Jesus Himself said, "But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one" (Matthew 5:34-37).
This scriptural instruction is not meant to imply that oaths by themselves are sin. To emphasize that we mortal human beings are often powerless to fulfill even our strongest intentions, God commands us not to swear by His name in any oath. Failing to fulfill an oath would be taking God's name in vain, breaking the third commandment (Exodus 20:7).
Therefore, a Christian should simply say "Yes" or "No," according to what one honestly believes to be true, even in legal matters. Truly, this should be a sufficient guarantee of honesty from any man. What a shame men must swear an oath to be truthful!
The law of the United States permits affirmation, that is, saying "Yes" or "No"—without raising the hand to swear.
The Third Commandment (1997)
Swear Not at All!
Should We Make Vows Today?
How Good Is Your Word?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 5:33: