An Honest Look at Ourselves

James 5:12 (ESV)

“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.”

While honesty is indeed the best policy, it is not always a strong trait in many of us. In today’s verse, James clearly had the words of Jesus in mind: “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” (Matthew 5:33-37).

Oath taking was a common practice in James’ day. People took solemn pledges to assure others they were on the level, that what they were about to say was true, or what they said they would do, would get done. Not all that different from today.

Here James is affirming that honest people should not even have to resort to oaths, for in doing so indicates an issue with one’s character.

This is not to say one should refuse an oath if presented by an outside agency, such as in a court room or other legal proceeding where an oath is required, but more so among friends and neighbors. In these situations, if we are true in heart, our word alone should suffice. And if it is not accepted, then clearly those around us deem us not trustworthy.

Therefore the more we must resort to taking oaths among our peers, the more we degrade our reputation due to how our character is perceived. And to do so, should require us to self-examine our integrity.

Integrity means that our souls are bathed in truth. There are no segments of our existence from which truth is excluded, no hidden agendas, no double lives, and no misrepresentations. We are true all the way through. Integrity means we behave with the same honesty whether home or away; in public or in the privacy of our homes.

And when God must intervene to correct our steps, our duplicity is finally exposed. In shame and humiliation, we are convicted much like what was written in Proverbs 11:3, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” It is the wise man at this point that praises God for the correction.

Fortunately, we have the source of Truth at our disposal. God’s Word enables us to discern what right and wrong; better or worse; beautiful or ugly. God’s Word informs us of every aspect of our judgment and exposes our obfuscations as well as our subtle ways of lying to ourselves and others.

However, if we are not weaving His Word into our daily lives, there is little hope of sincerity and honesty becoming the fabric of our lives. We are called to be more than we are right now. Let honesty infuse your soul so your very will becomes that of the Father.

Only then can we walk before God in integrity of heart and uprightness (1 Kings 9:4).