But above all, my brothers, do not swear, 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. James 5:12
As our Pastor concludes his exposition of the letter from James, a series of monumental benefits for me personally, Lord willing, he has set to carry us through a more subject-type approach, topical if you will, declaring the gospel in a chain of messages over the next several weeks.
Leaving James then, a moment of reflection cannot be a bad thing, to hit upon something from the quoted verse above.
It is those three words, “but above all,” that eluded me previously, but our Pastor picked up on with Sherlock-like scrutiny. Imagine all the things James could have concluded to revere above all, but instead, picked our being a people who could be trusted to mean and do what we say.
This hits a little close to home because by nature I am overly un-confrontational. Not only that, I have a huge problem with wanting to avoid another’s disappointment with me. I’m sure there’s a mental issue there somewhere.
Someone asks, “Can you do this?” to which I reply, “Yes, of course,” knowing there is no way on earth I can fit their request into my schedule.
Why would this be such an issue for James to conclude it “above all?”
After all, we live in a day when it is nothing unusual to hear promises made and un-kept. Our entire political system is made up of those who have mastered this art.
The disciple of the Master should need no swearing, as in “I promise, or cross my heart…,” for a simple yes means I’ll do it or I’ll be there, and a no means I can’t realistically do this… sorry.
It is “above all” because of the integrity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are to declare the Word of God to be true, that Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection has graced abundant life to sinners, that He is the Truth and the Way, who will believe one whose word cannot be trusted? Will we not find utter condemnation in foolishness as this?
When James previously spoke of “slow to speak,” he alluded of course to hearing the Word, and yet, this same slowness may be beneficial before making a commitment.
On a closing note, as I’ll miss these practical words from a disciple long ago, are you suffering today… pray; are you cheerful… sing; is any among you sick… call the elders and take advantage of the medical advances of the day. And by all means, let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no.