Kim’s nephew came home from second grade in her Christian School and told his mom and dad that one of the kids got in trouble for saying the “F” word. Tom and Clara were quite surprised, and asked him, “Thomas, what exactly did the boy say?” Thomas whispered, “he said FART.”

Children all have to learn how to control their words. Kim and I are reminded of the constant effort as we listen to our children teaching their children which words are acceptable and which words are not.

JAMES 5:12 returns to the subject of Speech once again.
In James 5:12, James urges us to keep our speech pure and simple. We don’t need to take an oath in order for someone to believe us. Our word should be enough.

“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.” (James 5:12, ESV)

I. Review of James Teaching on Speech. James has brought up the subject of our speech on several occasions in this short Epistle. He has demonstrated to us that our speech is a key indicator of our heart.
A. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)
B. “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” (James 2:12, ESV)
C. “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” James 3:2–11
D. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” (James 4:11, ESV)

E. “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.” (James 5:12, ESV)

F. Our WORDS are a key indication of our spiritual condition. James urges us to examine our words so that we can know the condition of our hearts.

G. “True believers can be tested by their speech. It’s a vital point of spiritual reality. It’s also a vital point of spiritual control. [The tongue] is an indicator of our spiritual state” (John MacArthur, “Stop Swearing” (

II. James’ Closing Words on Words
A. “But above all…”
1. A connection between “do not grumble” (James 5:9)
2. Not the most important instruction in his letter. James wants to draw their attention to one more command about speech.

B. “Do not swear.” Is there a contradiction with other Scriptures?
1. Oaths in the Bible
a. Abraham’s servant swore he would find a wife for Isaac from his own family and not one of the Canaanites (Gen 24)
b. David swore not to harm Saul’s descendants (1 Sam 24)
c. Ruth Swears to Naomi. “Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”” (Ruth 1:17, ESV)
d. PAUL called “God as my witness” (at least 4 times)
(1) “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you” (Romans 1:9, ESV)
(2) “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:8, ESV)

2. Oaths were serious. “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4–5, ESV)
3. Jonah promised to complete his vow. “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!”” (Jonah 2:9, ESV)

C. Why does James Prohibit Vows?
1. The Jews of the day had an elaborate system of making oaths. In order to allow themselves to get “off the hook” if they broke their promises, they would make an oath by something other than GOD.

2. They made elaborate oaths in order to compensate for their untruthfulness.

3. They knew that MEN ARE LIARS and they sought to convey their seriousness to the other party by INVOKING GREAT OATHS when they wanted to show their sincerity.

4. Illus – The MASONIC Oath. “Binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my throat cut, my tongue torn out by its roots, and buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn oath and obligation as an entered apprentice Mason, so help me, God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same. Binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my left breast torn open, my heart plucked out and given as a prey to the wild beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my body severed in twain, my bowels taken from thence and burned to ashes, the ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven so that no more trace or remembrance may be had of so vile and perjured a wretch as I, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn obligation as a Master Mason, so help me, God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.” Quoted by John MacArthur, “Stop Swearing”

5. This is what JESUS spoke about in Matthew 5:33-37. ““Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
6. Jesus (and James) do not prohibit official oaths, such as in courts but the use of oaths in everyday discourse to prove integrity (Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: a Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 190.

III. “Let Your Yes be Yes and your NO be No”
A. As Christians, we do not need elaborate oaths to prove that we are sincere. A simple YES or NO is all that someone needs in order to know we are sincere.

B. BUT, we don’t go around making oaths!

C. TRUE, but there are other ways that we Complicate OUR SPEECH.
1. Exaggeration. – we exaggerate in order to impress others.

2. Expert on Everything – we express opinions abotu things we do not fully know.

3. Prayer Requests- we promise to pray because people like it when we tell them that we will pray for them.

4. Commitments – we promise to do something but then fail to do it.

5. Timeliness – we are late for appointments after making a commitment to be at a certain place.

IV. JAMES is calling for SIMPLE SPEECH. If James were writing to us today, he would say….
A. Stop using euphemisms to replace swear words.
1. Typing OMG
2. “Shoot,” “Geeze,” “heck,” “Jimmeny Cricket,”

B. Don’t slander people on Facebook
C. Don’t promise things to your kids that you can’t fulfill
D. Don’t make commitments unless you are sure you can complete them

E. Maintain simple speech without extra words. Be a person of such great integrity that you would not be afraid of someone interviewing your pet parrot!