Summary: In a world of complex communication, James reminds us to keep our words simple, trustworthy and positive!
Kim’s nephew came home from second grade in her Christian School and told his mom and dad that one of the kids got in trouble for saying the “F” word. Tom and Clara were quite surprised, and asked him, “Thomas, what exactly did the boy say?” Thomas whispered, “he said FART.”
Children all have to learn how to control their words. Kim and I are reminded of the constant effort as we listen to our children teaching their children which words are acceptable and which words are not.
JAMES 5:12 returns to the subject of Speech once again.
In James 5:12, James urges us to keep our speech pure and simple. We don’t need to take an oath in order for someone to believe us. Our word should be enough.
“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, ESV)
I. Review of James Teaching on Speech. James has brought up the subject of our speech on several occasions in this short Epistle. He has demonstrated to us that our speech is a key indicator of our heart.
A. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)
B. “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” (James 2:12, ESV)
C. “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” James 3:2–11
D. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” (James 4:11, ESV)
E. “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, ESV)
F. Our WORDS are a key indication of our spiritual condition. James urges us to examine our words so that we can know the condition of our hearts.
G. “True believers can be tested by their speech. It's a vital point of spiritual reality. It's also a vital point of spiritual control. [The tongue] is an indicator of our spiritual state” (John MacArthur, “Stop Swearing” (www.gty.org)
II. James’ Closing Words on Words
A. “But above all...”
1. A connection between “do not grumble” (James 5:9)
2. Not the most important instruction in his letter. James wants to draw their attention to one more command about speech.
B. “Do not swear.” Is there a contradiction with other Scriptures?
1. Oaths in the Bible
a. Abraham’s servant swore he would find a wife for Isaac from his own family and not one of the Canaanites (Gen 24)
b. David swore not to harm Saul’s descendants (1 Sam 24)
c. Ruth Swears to Naomi. “Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”” (Ruth 1:17, ESV)
d. PAUL called “God as my witness” (at least 4 times)
(1) “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you” (Romans 1:9, ESV)