Scripture: James 5:12, ‘Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.’


Observations: James introduces another topic, with the words ‘above all’ or ‘before all things,’ which suggest that what he’s about to say is extremely important. Surprisingly he says, ‘do not swear.’ This is not swearing as using bad language, but swearing an oath. In James’ day it was common to swear oaths on something greater than one’s self i.e. heaven, or earth, or the gods, or Jerusalem. The idea being that the greater thing will hold you accountable to your oath. Rather James says ‘Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no!’ James quotes Jesus word for word (see Mt 5:37). I’m not sure why making oaths is such an issue, but integrity certainly is. People ought to be able to trust our word. If we say we will do something will we do it? James says without integrity we ‘will be condemned,’ or ‘so that we may not fall under judgment.’ Jesus says that swearing oaths ‘comes from the evil one. (Mt 5:37)’ Truthfulness on the other hand comes from the Spirit, whom Jesus calls ‘the Spirit of Truth. (Jn 16:13)’ One of the effects of the Holy Spirit is to make us speak the truth as God speaks the truth (Jn 3:33) and as Jesus spoke the truth (16 times Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth…’).


Application: Do you have integrity? Do you mean what you say? Can people trust your yes and no? If you struggle in this area confess it to God and ask the Spirit to make you more like Jesus in this area of speaking with integrity. As DC Talk said, “There is nothing an unbelieving world finds more unbelievable than Christians who confess Jesus with their lips and deny him with their lifestyle!”


Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You are a God of Truth, You tell us what is true and Your promises are sure. But Lord, sometimes I don’t speak the truth in all its fullness, sometimes I twist the truth to my own advantage, and I don’t always follow through with my promises. Lord, forgive me for bringing dishonor to Your name and character. Fill me with Your Spirit that I may be more like Jesus who always spoke the truth in a way that brought You glory and honour. Help my yes to be yes and my no to be no. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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