Every week, on Monday, we will have a blog for you with resources for diving deeper into the sermon.
Last week, Pastor Andrew spoke to us about James 5:12, considering the characteristics of honesty and truth. The main idea of the sermon was that the gospel creates honest people. For God’s people, our word should be our bond.
One important thing to notice about verse 12 is that James says, “above all.” James really wants us to take notice of his command not to swear or take elaborate oaths. The principle is easy: the Christian life is an honest one.
In James’ and Jesus’ day, the Jewish leaders had set up an elaborate system of swearing, in which swearing by certain things bound you and others didn’t. Jesus called out how foolish this was in Matthew 23:16-22. James’ teaching on letting your yes be yes (which is derived from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5) is the solution. Christians have no need to swear because we understand that, as God’s people, everything we say is observed by those around us and by God himself. To not be honest is to paint the God we serve and witness to as a liar.
Some people want to say that in light of James’ teaching that Christians shouldn’t take oaths at all. But there is no reason to go all the way there. For Christians, promises aren’t wrong, they should just be unnecessary. On the cross, Jesus took the curse for broken promises and oaths. Since we know that we are fallible people, why would we set ourselves up to do something that Jesus died to forgive? Elaborate promises and swearing should be obsolete for God’s people.
We can apply this message in two ways:
- Commit yourself to truth. In a post-modern world, people are inclined to believe that each person, culture, or society creates the truth. But truth is something that stands outside of humanity and is true for all people. People can’t just choose what is true. The Jewish leaders wanted to make swearing oaths by certain things less true, meaning that their oath wasn’t really binding. But any gradation in truth undermines the nature of truth. There can’t be things that are more or less truth. Everything that is not true is a lie. We live in a world of deep skepticism, and the nature of truth is highly debated. But when everything is in doubt, make the truth plain. Honesty and simplicity attacks postmodernism.
- Commit yourself to honesty. One thing to note is that there is a difference in being honest and being mean. The Bible always calls people to deliver the truth with love and grace. Everything we say should be true, but not every true thing should be said. We ought to love people enough to say things in a way they can hear.
Now, why do we lie? Lies come from the desire of an immediate better future. But when we look at the gospel, we see the example of Jesus. Jesus didn’t take the immediate better future. He died to secure our eternal future. We don’t have to lie to make our future better, because it is secured in Christ.
James Reading Guide – We have broken the book of James down so we can read it over the course of the whole series together. This companion reading guide can be downloaded in full (with and introduction to the book) at the link provided.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)