#157 “KEEPING YOUR WORD” (JAMES 5:12)
Would the people close to you say you keep your word? In James 5:12, we learn the importance of not taking the Lord’s Name in vain and how to follow through with what we say we will do.
- 12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear (to take an oath), either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. Notice how James starts off this section, “above all”. Up to this point, James rebuked the greedy rich (5:1-6), encouraged Christians to remain patient in the midst of persecution (5:7-11), and in the subsequent context—James will reassure Christians to continue to pray fervently to God (5:13-18). Therefore, verse 12 acts as a pivotal marker between patience and prayer. James would have no need to bring up oaths if the early church wasn’t abusing them. For James, this is a big problem. If the church continues to make vows in attempt to persuade or manipulate God—their faith will not stand. Bargaining with God is not a biblical practice but based on false religion. Which explains why James places oaths as a top priority. Do not swear—James clearly reiterates what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matt. 5:34-37). Customarily, people would swear by the Name of God to back a claim or promise. The Pharisees would swear to a variety of oaths with variations to appear pious and binding only to those they see fit. Over time, God’s Name was debased and people’s promises became inconsequential. Lev. 19:12, “Do not swear falsely by My Name and so profane the Name of your God. I Am the Lord.” Let your “yes”—Christians are not to have a flippant attitude to the truth. They are to be people of their word that others can count on. NKJV Study Bible, “James is not forbidding a believer from taking an oath in court or invoking God as witness to some significant statement (see 1 Thess. 2:5). Instead, he is prohibiting the ancient practice of appealing to a variety of different objects to confirm the veracity of one’s statement. This practice was extremely close to idolatry, for it implied that such objects contained spirits. The warning in these verses can serve as a reminder to us to watch what we say. We should not use God’s name in a reckless manner; and we should be careful to speak the truth.” The bible records a few examples of people who made a solemn oath: (1) Jesus before Caiaphas (Matt. 26:63-64) and (2) Paul longing to go to Rome (Rom. 1:9) and speaking the truth (Rom. 9:1). That you not fall under condemnation—The third commandment (“You shall not use the Lord’s Name in vain”) specifically prohibits people from invoking God to take advantage of others. Those who defame God’s Name and lie to others will be punished for their sinful actions.