James 5:12 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.
The third commandment as written in the book of Exodus is this: Exo 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” James could very well be considering this verse when he tells his readers not to swear by anything. Our response to others should either be “yes” or “no”.
Jesus also talks about swearing by an oath in the Gospel account of Matthew. Mat 5:34-37 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, (35) or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. (36) And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. (37) Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
As innocent as it may seem at times, using common expressions could very well be taking the Lord’s name in vain. “Oh my God,” “God as my witness,” “For Christ’s sake,” are all expressions we have heard and many of us have said, but according to this verse, we are placing ourselves under a form of condemnation and Jesus says that it comes from the evil one.
Recently I was walking through the grocery store with Lori. As I was deciding whether to purchase the generic olives for 88¢ or the brand name olives for $1.50 I heard a woman exclaim, “Jesus Christ!”. Immediately my ears perked up. I was trying to determine if this woman was a praying woman or if she was simply using the Lords name in vain. It didn’t take long to see that it was simply taking the name of Christ in vain.
It got me to realize the power of the verse in Exodus. God stated this for a reason. People do take His name in vain… If this wasn’t the case then why would someone not simply say, “Steve Jobs!”, or “Elmer Fudd!”. The Lord new when this was written that the devil would influence men and women to speak against Him with their words without even taking into consideration the impact that has on their lives.
James tells us that when we take the Lord’s name in vain or swear by an oath beyond our word that there will be some form of fallout. Neither Jesus or James describe what this condemnation will be, but we can safely assume that it is the condemnation of hell itself.
What a sobering thought. We, as men and women made in the image of God are condemned even by the words that come from our mouth. Be careful brothers and sisters when it comes to your speech. If you are born again and you have received the heart of flesh, then there should be some form of conviction in your life if you go beyond “yes” and “no”. But God is merciful. He forgives and restores us when we fail and welcomes his children with open arms when we simply turn from our oaths and seek forgiveness in Him.
Lord, forgive me when I swear by an oath and take your name in vain. Forgive me when my life is lived in such a way that my testimony to others is tarnished by the words I say. Help restore in me the heart of flesh so I can be shaped and molded by your Word. Amen.