Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
Chapter 23, Paragraph 2.
“The Name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all Holy Fear and reverence, therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious, and dreadful name; or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred;…”
In the movie The Princess Bride, the mercenary swordsman Inigo Montoya, told to kill the mysterious stranger who pursues his group, attempts to hasten the ascent of the hero onto the top of a cliff. The conversation goes like this:
Inigo Montoya: But, I promise I will not kill you until you reach the top.
Man in Black: That’s VERY comforting, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.
Inigo Montoya: I hate waiting. I could give you my word as a Spaniard.
Man in Black: No good. I’ve known too many Spaniards.
Inigo Montoya: Isn’t there any way you trust me?
Man in Black: Nothing comes to mind.
Inigo Montoya: I swear on the soul of my father, Domingo Montoya, you will reach the top alive.
Man in Black: Throw me the rope.
While the man in black was impressed by Inigo swearing upon the soul of his own father, it was wrong for Inigo to do so. Why? When you swear by something, you are calling upon that thing to witness your vow and to judge you for it. In order for a vow to be truly in earnest, the one called upon must be all-knowing (in order to know your thoughts) and all-powerful (in order to have the authority and ability to judge you). Inigo’s dead father had neither of these abilities. Inigo as well did not have the power to affect the state of his father’s soul by his oath. Such an oath was meaningless.
God alone is the only being that humans ought to swear by. When He is invoked, it is not to be done rashly. Remember, this is the high king of heaven we are asking to witness our vow. The omniscient and omnipotent, most holy Being who created all things. He is most worthy of our adoration and respect, and His very name should not be tossed about glibly.
Inigo Montoya was quite determined to fulfill his vows. However, his vows were sinful and carried no weight. May we be careful to not swear by anything but God alone, and to do so reverently.
Questions to Consider
- How often do you hear people vow by anything other than God?