Swearing To Your Own Hurt (ATP)
Question: What does psalm 15:4 mean? Specifically the part about “he who swears to his own hurt and does not change.”
The scripture this question is referring to says this, Psalms 15:4, “In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” If we go back to the beginning of Psalm 15 we see the original question David posed. Psalms 15:1, “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” The remainder of Psalm 15 really goes along with this posed question. So what David is asking, then proceeds to answer, is what are the conditions to dwell with Him forever. Of course we see that is, according to this Psalm, walking uprightly, not backbiting, not doing evil to your neighbor, etc. When we get to verse 4 we see that one who abides with God cannot honor and accept sin and we also see, as in your question, that it’s good to be a person that swears to your own hurt but still remains unchanged. Let’s look at this verse in the Amplified Bible, Psalms 15:4, “In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he who honors those who fear the Lord (who revere and worship Him); who swears to his own hurt and does not change.”
One could misinterpret this scripture easily, but what it’s actually talking about in context is how God blesses integrity. I love Psalm 15 in the Message Bible: GOD, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list? “Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. “Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor; despise the despicable. “Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. “You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this.”
Integrity says, once you commit to something and give your Word, you will fulfill your word no matter the cost. It is common practice in our culture to keep our word only as long as it’s convenient for us to do so. Something I learned while in college studying to be a a school teacher was that it was very important we stuck to our word. If I threatened a consequence or offered a reward and the student followed through, I needed to follow through. If I said you’re going to earn a detention for talking back but then never gave a detention to the student who talked back, my word and my consequences would be null and void. Likewise, if I promised a candy bar to any student who helped clean up the classroom but never brought the reward, the students would lose trust in my word and be less hesitant next time around. I carried this into parenting as well, sometimes to my own hurt! I recall grounding my son from crossing the street and when it was time to go somewhere my car was parked on the opposite side of the street. My son declared that he’d be breaking punishment to go get in the car! I had sworn to my own hurt.
Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” God is a god of integrity and He calls us to be the same. This is sadly lacking in our society. Follow through is based on current mood, if something better came up, or even based on what one can get out of it. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity (crookedness) of the unfaithful will destroy them.” Integrity is meant to be our guide. If I said it, I’ll make it good. If I foolishly agreed to something I cannot fulfill, then I will repent and make it right. Look at Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal truthfully are His delight.” Being honest and upright matters greatly to the Lord.
Proverbs 28:6 says, “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” Integrity is so valuable to God and it ought to be to us. Look at Psalms 41:12, “As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And set me before Your face forever.”
Besides this, 1 Peter 3:16-17 calls us to have, “a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Our integrity, our follow through or true repentance when we’re unable to follow through, speaks volumes about the God we serve. God does not want us to “swear to our own hurt” but He wants us to understand that our words have weight like His words have weight. He wants us to understand that being a person of integrity is always worth being inconvenienced. Ultimately God wants His people to be less about self than they are about others.