Letter of James 12

Chapter 5.3
n. Against oaths (5:12)

Verse 12 is a total ban on swearing. It is interesting to note that this command is related to the control of tongue that we have seen before, with the obligation not to utter vain words and with the recommendation not to judge anyone. At first glance we may not see the relationship, but it certainly exists. James continues to talk about what he has been talking about throughout the letter. Of the need for coherence between the faith we believe and the faith we live in our daily lives. Our words should reflect what is inside us, of what we really are. A person who governs themselves and lives according to the wisdom that comes from God will avoid idle words that harm others and themselves. In the first place because their thoughts will be governed by the Holy Spirit. In addition, they will not need to swear or be sworn to, as they will be honest in word and deed. Their credibility will be based on who they are and not on what they say or swear. And they will trust in the same way, in the word of others, without forcing them to swear. Bottom line of the verse is: The Christian’s word should be so unequivocal that oaths become redundant.

This passage indirectly tells us that human beings lie, so we have had to look for ways to try to prove to others that we are telling the truth [oaths for what we hold sacred or what the other person holds sacred], and we do it for different reasons. The main one is to hide oneself, to protect oneself, that is to say; the lack of trust generates fear and the fear, insecurity and then the human being lies to protect themselves. To maintain a fictitious image of themselves. The lie begins with the intention of hiding what we really are, it begins with our shame for what we are or are not. Because only in God can we find our true nature and the meaning of our existence, that is, purpose, only the true believer, the one who is genuine, 24 hours a day, can always tell the truth and not feel the need to lie. Because they know that even if they fail, the love of God is always constant, and God never fails and forgives everyone who approaches Him with a humble and repentant heart. This authentic believer knows that the true shame lies in not being faithful to God and that when we fail it is best to confess and ask for forgiveness, and not hide the truth behind vain excuses, because lies call for lies; thus making a chain that never ends. Every day it becomes heavier and ends up immobilizing us and suffocating us. As always in this epistle, Saint James urges us to live coherently, and thus make evident the cohesion between the Christian faith and the Christian life. Between believing and living the faith.

Again, in this verse we can find reflected in a direct and simple way the teaching of Jesus [Matthew 5:33-36]. All things are connected to God because God is their creator and He also reveals Himself through the created. Therefore, it is impossible to take an oath or a vow without God's involvement. And this is something really very serious, because in addition to everything that we have pointed out about the psychological need that the human being can feel to swear when looking for or offering guarantees of veracity due to our fallible and sinful nature; there is a side in the oaths that is ignored, by ignorance or negligence and it is the following one: When you swear you are calling on the name of God asking Him to witness that what you are saying is true and you will fulfill it. And if you don't fulfill it, you bring judgment upon yourself and, greater than that, you "take God's name in vain. You mock the name of God, which is nothing but mocking God Himself. And this is serious and dangerous. Do you really want God to be a witness against you?

As a summary, there are two teachings that we can draw from this verse and its practical consequence: First, let us speak without swearing. Secondly, let us speak the truth. And, as a result, we will avoid condemning ourselves.

Questions to think about
Are there any times when we can be economical with the truth, or when our yes and no are not as reliable as James is asking? When does this happen? How can we be more consistent?
How should we use our words in such a way that they glorify God and guard our reputation?
For further prayer and reflection
Look up the following verses and reflect on what do you think James and Jesus want us to understand about oaths: Exodus 22:10-11; Deuteronomy 6;13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Isaiah 65:16; Isaiah 45:23; Hebrews 7:20-22


Bookmark and Share