“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 5:12 NIV)
How this particular verse hits home for me! Swearing is so easy to do and happens so quickly. When we are hurt, angry, scared or caught by surprise, a swear word is often one f the first to escape our lips. I hate to admit how many times it has happened to me. But James admonishes us not to swear – above all. Wow! This is a huge concept to think about.
I think I am a Christian and generally a pretty good person. Many of you reading this undoubtedly feel the same. And we are. We try to do our work, help others, be sensitive to the needs of others, give to the hungry, and live good Christian lives. Yet, swear words do tend to escape us. To think that this, above ALL else, is to be condemned is a frightening thought. It place swearing above stealing, adultery, dishonor, and even killing. Whew! Taking the name of the Lord in vain is surely bad, but is it this bad? Can it possibly be as bad as James seems to make it sound? Is swearing to be condemned above all else?
I think we have to recognize a difference right about here. James is not speaking about the thoughtless curse word that slipped out when we cut our finger or dropped a glass. He is not speaking of the name of the Lord taken so casually in vain when the dryer wouldn’t work or the furnace went out during a cold winter night. He is speaking of swearing.
Swearing is a conscious act during which the name of God is purposely taken in vain. It is not a slip of the tongue, but rather a conscious act requiring thought and foresight. And it does have consequences. Jesus, in His infinite compassion and forgiveness can easily forgive a thoughtless epithet we may utter. It is quite meaningless. Although wrong, it carries little weight in judgment.
John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible offers this insight: “As impatience should not show itself in secret sighs, groans, murmurings, and repinings, so more especially it should not break forth in rash oaths, or in profane swearing; for of such sort of swearing, and of such oaths, is the apostle to be understood; otherwise an oath is very lawful, when taken in the fear and name of God, and made by the living God, and is used for the confirmation of anything of moment, and in order to put an end to strife; God himself, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and angels, and good men, are in Scripture sometimes represented as swearing: and that the apostle is so to be understood, appears from the form of swearing prohibited,”
We will, however, be judged and condemned if we consciously and purposefully swear. This is a huge difference and not a moment of thoughtlessness when our mouths get away from us. This is when we sincerely swear against God and all that should be noble, good, decent and kind. It is when the very foundations of our faith are rocked and the very tenets of our religion as Christians stretched to the breaking point. It is when God, even in His infinite grace, will condemn us.”
People who swear can repent and ask for forgiveness and, if asked sincerely from the heart and through Jesus Christ our Savior, it will be granted. God can and will forgive. But those who swear, those who rock the cornerstones of Christianity, without repentance will surely be condemned. They who will not ask for forgiveness will not be given forgiveness. All we need to do is ask, yet some will not do so.
May we never swear by anything in heaven or on earth. May we try to confine our replies to simple answers which contain no hint of swearing. And, if we do lapse, may we always pray for forgiveness, knowing that God will forgive us through His son, Jesus Christ. God, save your children from condemnation through Your holy and redeeming love and grace. Amen.
You might also like to read:
- Bible Verse of the Day
- Daily Bible Guide
- The Disciple by Ronald Way
- Growing in Christ
- Bible Study Tools Online
- The Jesus Walk Bible Study Series
- UpWords Daily Devotions by Max Lucado
- Pocket Devotions by Mike Brooks.
A discussion of today’s bible verse is encouraged. If you would like to participate, please feel free to write a comment in the space below. There are many different outlooks and interpretations of scripture passages and, the more we share, the more we learn.
Sharon is a member of the Community Church of the Midlands that meets at Seven Oaks Community Center at 200 Leisure Lane in Columbia and is a frequent participant, with her husband Douglas, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral located at 1100 Sumter Street in Columbia.
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