It is the middle of the week and the time when we usually feel like skipping a day of boot camp. Hope you are able to persevere through the next three days as we wrap up our study of James.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
James is reiterating what Jesus said about oaths in Matthew 5:34-37.
“34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;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 swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
James was telling the people their word should be enough, they should not need to make oaths. It is not that oaths were forbidden, but they should not be said lightly. There is a seriousness in making an oath because it involves making it in the name of the Lord. Our word should stand for itself and we should not have to make promises, swear or make an oath in order for our word to mean something.
This verse may seem out of place because what came before had to do with patience with others and what follows has to do with prayer. However, it is very much in line with a theme we have seen over and over again in James – the power of our words. We are pretty careless with our words and they can be very harmful to others. How often do we tell someone we will do something and then not actually do it? Or we don’t do it in the time frame we committed to do it? When we don’t follow through on our word, it becomes less meaningful and we become less trustworthy.
In today’s world of constant communication and stimulation it is easy to become overwhelmed and become to busy to do what we say we are going to do. How often does that happen to you? Or the opposite, we say we aren’t going to do something any more and yet we do. I want you to think about what your word stands for – is your word trustworthy? Do you do what you say you are going to do and not do what you say you aren’t going to do?
In particular, I want you to think about what your word means in regards to praying for others. Sometimes we are asked to pray for someone else and say we will but then forget. Has that ever happened to you? We need to be people of our word and we need to be trustworthy, especially in the area of prayer. Instead of telling someone you will pray for them, how about simply doing it when they ask rather than waiting until later? Some people are more comfortable praying silently in their own place and time but what if we stepped out in boldness and whenever we were asked to pray for someone we simply did it right then and right there? I think we talk a lot about prayer without actually ever getting around to doing it. Praying for people right when they ask and engaging them in the prayer will encourage them, remind us both of our dependence upon God and help us both grow in our faith. I challenge you to do it the next time someone asks you to pray for them and make it a new habit.
- All Scripture references from http://www.biblegateway.com