All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.”
Do You Go To Church?
A lady was sitting in her beach chair on a Florida beach when the little boy, in his swimming trunks, and carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, “Do you believe in God?” She was surprised by the question but she replied, “Why, yes, I do.” Then he asked her: “Do you go to church every Sunday?” Again, her answer was “Yes!” He then asked: “Do you read your Bible and pray everyday?” Again she said, “Yes!” She began to wonder where the question were leading to when The little boy gave a sigh of relief and said, “I finally found the right person. Will you hold my quarter for me while I go in swimming?”
Trust and integrity are huge issues. Today we are going to look at one simple verse that James uses to challenge the 1st century church to a life of integrity, honesty and straightforwardness. If you are able, would you stand as we read God’s Word from James 5:12.
Read Passage – James 5:12
“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.”
Let Me Sum It Up For You
In the greater scheme of things when you look at this verse James is trying to drive home the point he has emphasized in the this chapter about the importance of our relationships and our words and how those impact our walk with God. He starts the verse with the words:
“Above all, my brothers and sisters…” vs.12a
“Above all…” In Greek that is pro panton. That word is not one that is used to denote coarse of profane language but one that says, in light of everything that is said, “pay attention” to this or even, “but finally…” He wants the readers to realize that his letter is about to come to an end and they really need to pay attention to the end and not lose track or lose heart. When you read something its easy to skim past the end or hurry through it. He wants them to realize the importance of this and really hear what he is saying to them.
Trying to Get God Involved
Again, this is not a passage about using profane language. It’s about the oath’s we take and the trustworthiness of our words. Can people trust what we say and do they find us credible. In fact, James is probably thinking about a passage he would have memorized as a kid when going to the temple for school from the laws found n Leviticus, more specifically, Lev. 19:12:
“Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.” Lev. 19:12
This passage is really a bridge of two thoughts; the ones that come in verses 7-11 about the patience we need in tough times and verse 13-20 about our prayers to God. Commentators disagree which section it goes with but I would suggest that is does very well standing on its own and bridging the thoughts about our relationships with others and our relationship with God. In either relationship, we need to be trustworthy and honest.
The warning that comes at the end of this verse in Lev. Is meant to caution us about bringing God into our oaths, especially when we know they are not true. When you make a false oath and you try to bring God into your lie, you are mixing oil and vinegar. They don’t mix. Neither do lies and God because in God there is only truth. So don’t bring God into your lies. You don’t because as is says at the end, “He is the Lord.” You are not deceiving God but you might be bringing dishonor to his name. So don’t!
James and Jesus Teaching on Integrity
James also does an interesting thing here, he uses the very words of Jesus to drive this point about integrity home. He actually almost word for word uses the teachings of teaching from the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:34-37. A close look at these two passages together help us understand James message much more clearly.
One thing that may have crossed your mind is that you don’t see the word integrity in either passage. That’s true. But let’s look at how integrity is defined and that will help us launch into this passage.
Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. (Dictinary.com)
In a word, James is directing us toward two moral values that should be evident in our life: honesty and truth. Those are also two Godly character traits. So, what do we need to know about integrity?
- Be Aware of Dishonesty
First, it is important to be aware that dishonesty is out there and more directly, we can have a propensity to be dishonest, especially if we are trying to build ourselves up, get an advantage, or even defend ourselves. James says in 12a:
“Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.” vs. 12a
As we saw in previous passages, notice that he is talking to fellow believers and the church because he addresses this to “brothers and sisters” and he personalizes it by saying “my brothers and sisters.” Dishonesty and lies are not to be part of the church but as we see in the headlines often, the church has often been thought of and found to be dishonest and not trustworthy. Now notice how hjesus put it in Matthew 5:34-35a:
“But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth…” Matt. 5:34-35a
Earlier we studied how James taught that words are important. We like to think that words are just words but they really are important and we need to be aware of our words, the weight they carry, and the potential for good and destruction that they carry. Often Jesus would say things like, “Truly I tell you…” (Matt. 5:26)
Ex. Most all of us have at one time or another been duped by someone’s dishonesty. Scam’s by phone callers about taxes, lost grandchildren, etc.
How does that feel. You feel used, hurt, taken advantage of, etc. So when the world hears the church being dishonest, it experiences those same feelings and hurts. The church is meant to bring healing and good news to the world. Dishonesty bring just the opposite.
- Live In/With Integrity
The second point that James beings to our attention about integrity is that we should be living in and with integrity. There is a simple way to do that, he says it in verse 12b:
“All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’” vs. 12b
These words are almost word for word the exact words of Jesus. I have put them next to each other for you to see.
“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” Matt. 5:37a
The point here is clarity. There should be no doubt about our words to others so that they can find us trustworthy and honest.
Ex. Every so often my wife will ask me a question and I will answer with— (a question) or (a vague answer)> So here is what Claudia says to me; “Answer me yes or no” She lives this passage and hold s me to it too.
The world looks to the church for answers to life’s issues and wants to know if we are honest and truthful. Too often we have not been and then when they find the truth, and it’s different from what the church has said, they won’t hear the other things we say.
Ex. I recently was watching TV and saw a preacher telling the viewers that God wants you to be well and if you’re not, it has to be sin. He also said that the solution was to buy his “healing water” and you could wash away your sin and be healed. Those kind of things mislead people. Yes, God does want you to be well but to promise healing through this “special water” or to say it’s your sin that is causing your sickness is not Biblical. Job did nothing wrong and his issues were not because of sin.
When we are untruthful and misleading, the world will not listen to us anymore and they will not hear the Good News of salvation through Jesus.
- Honesty Is a Serious Matter
And finally, third, James reminds us that honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity is a serious matter. James says in verse 12c:
“Otherwise you will be condemned.” vs. 12c
Those are hard words but Jesus words are even stronger in Matt. 5:37:
“…anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matt. 5:37
Here is what James and Jesus are both getting at: you have to decide who you are aligning yourself with. If you are aligning yourself with God, God is truth. John 3:33 says:
“Whoever has accepted (Christ) has certified that God is truthful.” John 3:33
So this is a hard choice we have to make; to follow God or to follow Satan. If we follow God, we choose not to lie and on the occasion that we do, we don’t try to bring him into it by saying things like “I swear to God.” Then we are bringing him into something that is totally foreign to him and has nothing to do with him. On the other hand, when we lie, we are aligning ourselves with Satan. John 8:44 says:
“When he lies, (Satan) speaks his native language, for is a liar and there is no truth in him.” John 8:44
Satan is the Father of lies. The question is: Who’s your Father? God Almighty or Satan? Speaking the truth and living in integrity is so important, so serious, that it tells others who we are living for and who is our Father.
Hope and Confidence
So it is important to note two things about integrity, honety, trughfulness and the oaths with take;
- If we are always truthful, we will never have to “swear” or take oaths because there is never a reason to doubt our integrity or honesty.
- But…more importantly, two, it may appear at times that evil prevails. That people who lie get ahead, that dishonesty has its rewards. But go back to verse 12c:
“Otherwise you will be condemned.” vs. 12c
Look at that last word. Condemned. A judgment day is coming. A day when we will stand before God and have to give an account for what we have done. It’s at that point that we realize why Jesus came and died on the cross; for our forgiveness. If we align ourselves with God, accept Jesus gift of salvation, there is no condemnation for us. But if we align ourselves with Satan, the Father of lies, though we may get away with things now, we will not at the judgement seat.