But above all, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment. James 5:12
The Jews in James’ time had many ways of swearing. They were careless in their speech in everyday conversation. They swore by heaven, by hell, by the temple, and many other things, in order to make a point about how strongly they felt about an issue. What arrests me as much as anything in today’s scripture is the way James introduces the subject. He said, “Above all else that I have addressed so far in this letter to you, here is what I want you to know about swearing.” That puts this subject high on the priority list. Jesus also addressed it in fifth chapter of Matthew and again in chapter twelve. “By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:37 There are three kinds of swearing.
* When I’m in distress as a child, I can say all kinds of things beginning with an “I swear.” They’re called inner vows. “I swear I’ll never trust a man. I swear I’ll never be poor. I swear I’ll never bring a child into this world and make him suffer the way I did. I swear that no one will do that kind of thing to me again. I swear I’ll never forgive her.” These vows direct a person’s life like a set of railroad tracks. Once spoken, they are binding unless renounced.
* I also swear (make an oath) when I join many organizations; civil groups such as Eastern Star, Masonic Temple, Shriners, etc. All are joined through an initiation process where oaths are taken. Innocent people put themselves (and their families) in bondage for generations because they fail to see the seriousness of their words. To swear an allegiance to anyone on penalty of death and/or bodily harm is to become a prisoner to the words. At the time, this person can just believe that they are speaking frivolous words to join a club. Jesus didn’t agree.
* Swearing by mentioning the very name of Jesus or God is of the worst kind. How easily someone is damned or commanded to go to hell. Yet, if we could see the kingdom of darkness with our own eyes at the very moment the words erupt, we wouldn’t want anyone going there. I need to know that when I swear against someone, I am actually doing them harm. Words are never without consequence. Good or bad. Every one of us has sworn falsely. What can be done after the fact? Repent for the words. Ask Jesus to cover them with His blood and save you and your loved ones from their consequences. Erasing their effects is easy through prayer yet not cheap. Forgiveness for sin, including my words, cost Jesus his life.
The light and glory of His presence is my joy today. It changes everything – down to the last word I choose to say.
If you addressed this subject, Jesus, I align my priorities with yours. Holy Spirit, may every word spoken be words that delight You and further the kingdom. Amen