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Words of Faith 5-27-2020

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2020

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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James 5:12

 Above all, my brothers, do not swear--not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.


      When James begins by saying, "Above all," it must mean that what follows is really, REALLY important, even though it sounds rather simple. 

      James was actually quoting Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5:34-37   "But I tell you,  Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne;  or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

        Jewish tradition in the first century had developed a sophisticated system for making oaths and judging whether a particular oath was binding over another oath or commitment.  An oath made "to the Lord" was considered payable as if owed to God.  Various oaths were made "by" heaven or earth or Jerusalem and on and on.  These were judged in a complicated hierarchy of rabbinical rulings based on how they related to the Lord and the order of creation.

         One oath might supersede and nullify another based on these rulings.  In fact, an entire tract of the Mishnah (the written, oral traditions of Judaism) was devoted to this hair-splitting process!  Knowledge of these rules allowed one to make business commitments and then not be held accountable. 

          It sounds ridiculous and we might even find it humorous until we consider the way that our own modern culture carefully crafts legal language that "admits no culpability" and "surrenders no responsibility" and "holds harmless.”  Legal doublespeak is perhaps only surpassed by the skill of the highly compensated "spin doctors" who shape public image and debate in the political arena.  

        It is clear that we are broken humans in our sinful state and as such have a terrible time with honesty whether in the first century or the twentieth.  Our gift of language ought to set us above the animals, but in our sin nature, we use careful wordcraft to deceive, to say what we do not mean, or to provide for a way to escape our commitments.  

       So, James hits our world of "qualified statements" and careful caveats right between the dotted 'i's.  The words of Jesus: "Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no," even adding this consequence: "or you will be condemned."  

          Why so strong a statement?   Perhaps it is because dishonesty in our words reveals a deeper fundamental problem in our relationship with God.   Consider 1 John 1:6: "If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”  Failure to tell the truth is a fruit of something other than God's Spirit. 

         Jesus made it very clear that He did not come to share truth or extol truth or suggest truth.  Jesus said: I AM the truth.  If the truth lives within us, that should be reflected in what comes out of us.   No wonder James cautions above all, let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  

          So.  How are you doing the truth department?  As you think about your day today, will you be a man or woman of your word?  Will you hedge the truth or doctor the spin?  Can those around you count on the Truth of Jesus Who lives in you?  Will your Yes be Yes and your No be No?



    Lord, You are the TRUTH. Come and live in me anew. Speak through me. Flow through me.  Let my mouth honor you with integrity.  Give me courage to speak plainly.  I pray that those around me may count on what I say because they see You in me.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.


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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2009, 2020

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)       

2820 Business Center Blvd.

Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200

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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.