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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on July 28, 2013.  Below you will find the study notes I handed out. James warns us about how incredibly evil slander and criticism is, violating God’s law of love. A must-listen message for anyone who struggles with speaking ill of other people, or being a criticizer, gossip or fault finder.

(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)

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Here are the study notes:

James 5:12 Do Not Swear

Brent Riggs –

  • James 5:12 (NKJV)   12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.
  • James is not talking about profanity or cursing; four letter words, vulgarity, etc.
  • He is talking about two things: using God’s name in a flippant way to exaggerate or bolster your conversation or declaration; or the need to “swear” because your normal word isn’t good enough because you are a liar by habit or practice
  • The fact is, people are basically liars and can’t be trusted
  • “I will keep my promise agreeing to the penalty of having my throat cut, my tongue ripped out of my throat and buried in the sand on the beach to be drowned over and over again at high tide should I ever break my promise or obligation, so help me God who should hold me accountable to keep my promise under no less a penalty than having my chest ripped open above my heart, my heart pulled out and given to wild animals to eat, then having my body cut into pieces, my guts ripped out and burned, and the ashes tossed into the wind so that no trace of my existence remains on this earth, so help me God, if I don’t keep my promise.”
  • Bible doesn’t say don’t judge… it says don’t judge improperly
  • Bible doesn’t say don’t swear… it says don’t swear improperly, and when you do swear, you better keep your word
  • God allows the taking of life because men are murderers
  • God allows divorce because men are adulterers
  • God allows an oath because men are liars
  • It’s not wrong for Christians to take an oath when testifying in court, when being sworn into an office, or when getting married.
  • Oaths are wrong when they’re used to deliberately mislead others, or when taken casually or flippantly.
  • Throughout the Bible we find examples of godly men and women who submitted to oaths.
  • God requires us to take our vows and oaths seriously and we should never swear in a foolish or casual sense.

Distinction, Restriction, Instruction, Motivation

  • The distinction of this command underscores its preeminence (12a).
  • James says “HEY, this is the most important…”
  • It’s been noted that in a society where truth has less and less value, oath-swearing has more and more prevalence.
  • The restriction of this command applies to all casual oaths (12b).
  • They would take oaths by objects associated with God (like swearing by heaven or the gold in the temple) so as not to use the name of God directly.
  • They believed that if GOD wasn’t directly invoked, then it wasn’t as binding, or binding at all
  • They wanted to borrow God’s credibility without incurring His direct condemnation when they lied.
  • The instruction of this command clarifies the believer’s pattern of speech (12c).
  • Literally, “Let yours be the ‘yes, yes’ and the ‘no, no.’”
  • There should be no exaggeration, no deception, no equivocation, no NEED for bolstering your “yes” or “no” with something that says “I really mean it this time, promise!”
  • Swear to your own hurt: Psalms 15:2, 4
  • The instruction of James for all Christians is to stop using elaborate oaths and vows in casual communication and start doing exactly what you say you’re going to do.
  • The motivation of this command is to save from eternal judgment (12d).
  •  The Greek word krisis translated as “judgment” is never used in the NT to refer to a believer’s chastening or being disciplined by God: it is the judgment of condemnation.
  • James is saying:  if you continue to blaspheme God’s holy name with lying oaths or you will be sentenced by God to hell.
  • In other words, James is saying the same thing as John in Revelation 21:8 (NKJV) 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”


  • You should be honest always in every word and promise
  • James is giving us a solemn warning that those who continue to lie and deceive are blaspheming God’s holy name and will face eternal judgment
  • Your promise should not need bolstering in ANY WAY
  • When you take a vow, you better keep it – Numbers 30:2
  • Failure to keep a vow invoked in God’s name (to bolster the confidence you need others to have in your commitment) is to use God’s name in vain and break the commandment
  • Never use God’s name to bolster a vow flippantly, without the due seriousness and reverence God’s name requires
  • A person who lies and swears falsely as a regular pattern of life is demonstrating an unregenerate heart in union with the father of lies and will likewise share in his doom.