As we have looked through the book of James, we have see some great revelations on how a real faith plays out in the world. In some instances, it appears that James is being pretty harsh, but we appreciate his straight-shooting attitude. He didn’t beat around the bush and coddle them, but pointed out the heart issues.
We kind of need to provide a contextual background as to what James will be talking about with oath taking. Turning to we see Jesus talking about truth. When it came to weighty matters in society, people would say something with an oath to a deity such as, “the throne of Zeus”. Jesus is referring back to Old Testament oaths that God’s people made. But Jesus says to not make oaths. Integrity in itself should be enough to just say “yes” or “no”. Because those who call upon some oath in the past have broken those oaths and made the oath useless. Your life should be conducted in such a way that when you say “yes” people know it means “yes”, and when you say “no” people know you mean “no”.
When you tell a lie, it breaks the integrity of the relationships around you. Honesty is and will be the foundation to strong relationships, especially in marriage. Honesty fosters the trust in a work environment when subordinates can work under supervisors. James says that if you had to invoke some sort of higher power (through an oath) to get someone to believe you, you have already broken the trust and condemned judgement into that relationship.
In today’s world, we see the black and white truth being pushed into gray. The world says that the truth isn’t primary and that absolute truth is not real. But this passage does say that there is absolute truth. Truth has to be made important in a world that says it isn’t.
33 “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.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (ESV)