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Suffering without Swearing

James 5:12
Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple 'Yes' or 'No'. Otherwise you will be condemned. (NIVUK)

James has been encouraging the Christian to be patient; trusting Christ and waiting until His will is done (James 5:7-11). Now he looks for evidence of a quiet heart that is confident of God's mercy and grace. The impatient, untrusting or frustrated person may lash out emotionally or physically when life does not go according to their plan, but more often they lash out with words - swear words. James says that swearing, which takes God's Name in vain or trivialises something sacred, is not right (Exodus 20:7). Jesus said the same in Matthew 5:34-36. How we use our words, in a crisis, shows how much we trust the Lord.

Words are very powerful, they are designed that way. It was with words that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:3); with words Jesus dismissed demons, healed the sick and taught with authority (Matthew 8:16). With words, the church has announced the life changing message of Jesus Christ which has transformed the hearts and homes of many millions through 2000 years (Romans 10:14). Words which have God's authority always achieve their intended effect; while untrue words lead to disappointment, despair and destruction (if they are believed). But to trivialise important words, in the heat of frustration or other bad emotion, is more foolish than wearing a wedding dress while gardening, or a white shirt for repairing the car.

The simplicity of 'Yes' and 'No' conveys all that is necessary. Anything more implies that normal speech is short of truth or sincerity. Most English swear words are about Father God, Jesus and His death, heaven and hell, or sex (a special gift to humanity). Those who abuse these words show that they have little love for God, the Passion of Jesus, the final judgement or His special gifts. James repeats what Jesus said: words should be used to say simply what you mean - and not more. If you mean yes, say 'yes'. If you mean no, say 'no'. Jesus went on to say that 'anything beyond this comes from the Evil One' (Matthew 5:37).

No wonder that James says that swearing brings God's condemnation - it is devil-motivated and expresses an inbuilt tendency to despise what is important to God. Although some may say that it does not mean anything, and everybody speaks like that at work - Christians should not swear. It may need several weeks of discipline to get out of a bad habit, but the first step is to recognise that it is a bad habit - and decide that your mouth-style needs to change, with God's help. Then ask other believers to hold you to account; give them permission to tell you when your mouth is out of order. Ask them to pray for you and set you an example of spiritually faithful speaking.

Dear Lord God. Thank for Your Word which clearly says that swearing is not right. Forgive me for being careless with my words especially when I am under pressure. Forgive me for making light of serious words, and change my heart to want to speak clearly, without duplicity or needing to boost my weakness by swearing. Help me to desire to please You in all that I say, and to honour You by treating words which are special to Your purposes with respect. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams