The General Epistle of James (Part 22)

v. 12. A. James gives warning against swearing. 1. swear: To make a solemn declaration or statement with an appeal to God or a superhuman being, or to some sacred object, in confirmation of what is said; to take an oath. 2. James' words are what Jesus taught. MAT 5:33-37. 3. Part of the Holy Ghost's work in the apostles was to “...bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (JOH 14:26) so they could fulfill their commission from Christ. MAT 28:20. B. “But above all things...” 1. This warning obviously is meant to be especially heeded. 2. Other scriptures place similar emphasis on other things. 1PE 4:8; 3JO 1:2. 3. Consider that James is referring to the things that he has already written; this instruction is to be held in higher regard. 4. In view of the injustices and afflictions that brethren had experienced and the copious instruction given on the government of the tongue, a crowning warning against swearing was very appropriate. a. How many have in frustration rashly sworn by God to do something that would be very regrettable? c/w 1SAM 25:21-22, 32-33. b. Alternately, have you ever heard someone say something like, “I swear by my mother's good name that I will....”? c. James' words here cover both errors. d. Disregard of this warning invites condemnation as did the warning against begrudging a brother. v. 9. e. James is very relevant. Brethren who do not properly process injustices against themselves at the hands of other brethren are likely to murmur and swear foolishly out of frustration, and thus give away the moral high ground and break God's law. f. Improper swearing is a bad alternative to patient enduring of affliction. C. James is not forbidding all swearing. 1. The O.T. by precept and example affirmed swearing. EXO 22:10-11; DEU 6:13; 10:20; 1KI 17:1. 2. Christ and the apostles affirmed swearing. MAT 26:63-64; 2CO 1:23; 11:31; GAL 1:20; HEB 6:16. 3. When a particular Scripture prohibits what elsewhere is permitted or commanded, the prohibition only applies to an abuse of what is under consideration. a. Example: The command, “Thou shalt not kill” (EXO 20:13) is a prohibition of murder (MAT 19:18), not of capital punishment (GEN 9:6) or self-defense (EXO 22:2) or killing an animal (ACT 10:13). b. Example: The command, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth...” (MAT 6:19) is not a prohibition of saving money (PRO 21:20), investing for profit (MAT 25:20-21) or providing for an inheritance (PRO 13:22; 2CO 12:14) but rather against godless pursuit of wealth (LUK 12:21). D. As did Christ, James here counters the Pharisee's idea of swearing by objects other than God to give oneself an “out.” MAT 5:33-37. 1. forswear: To swear falsely, commit perjury. James 8-24-14 Page 55 2. The scribes and Pharisees taught that not all oaths were binding. MAT 23:16-22. a. They taught that an oath sworn by the Lord, or by the gold of the temple, or by the gift on the altar was binding, but such was not the case with other oaths such as swearing by the temple or the altar. Mind that this shows with what they most associated God: money. b. There were two swearing errors in this: swearing by other than God and swearing falsely to avoid the performance of an oath. The first was grounds for the second. 3. Jesus and James were forbidding swearing by anything other than God. c/w DEU 6:13. a. Swearing by anything else invites condemnation. b. To swear by anything other than God implies that part of the creation is divorced from Him. c. Everything must be understood in relation to God. E. An oath that is not binding is worthless and shows no regard for truth and righteousness. F. An oath adds strength to what we say. HEB 6:16. 1. confirmation: The act of making firm or sure; strengthening, settling, establishing. 2. Generally, what we say should stand on its own without being propped up by an oath: “...let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay...” (JAM 5:12). 3. Our performance should simply be according to what we said, yea or nay. 4. Let swearing be reserved for needful and solemn occasions rather than being thoughtlessly used in conversation. G. According to JER 4:2, swearing should be: 1. in truth. Do not swear to a falsehood. 2. in judgment. Use good judgment (discretion) when swearing rather than swearing rashly, flippantly or needlessly. 3. in righteousness. Swear for a right cause. H. When men do not take their oaths seriously and in the fear of God, the very foundations of our institutions are threatened. 1. No marriage, family, church or nation can remain stable where truth is not taken seriously. 2. Liars can't be trusted in anything. 3. (PSA 11:3) If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
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