Do Not Swear

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any another oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment” (James 5:12).

This verse is highly reminiscent of what Jesus said in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:34-37). In both places, we are reminded that God expects us to be people of integrity: to tell the truth and to live up to our commitments. Taking an oath does not add to the obligation to be truthful, and speaking without one does not lessen it.

How this verse relates to the surrounding context is not at all clear. It is possible that there is no particular connection. This may just be a point that James wanted to include before wrapping up his letter.

James introduces his integrity injunction with the phrase above all. Does that refer to time (cf. finally), thus introducing the final section of the book, or importance (cf. 1 Peter 4:8)? While James is surely not saying that this point is the most important one in the book, he obviously does intend to call extra attention to it. Let’s all remember that a Christian’s integrity is no small matter!

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