Taking Jesus at his Word
“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.”
James 5:12 (ESVUK)
How closely should we follow the commands of Jesus Christ? When it came to James, the brother of Jesus, he took in what Jesus had to say and taught it to others.
Consider, for example, the taking of an oath. This was an established custom in Judaism, and is well documented in the pages of the Old Testament. The idea was that you were more beholden to tell the truth when taking an oath than you were in normal daily living. James would have been brought up to respect this concept of swearing to tell the truth. Not only was it taken seriously in Jewish thought, but it was also practiced widely in Greek and in other first century cultures.
Caiaphas tried to get Jesus to submit to an oath in Matthew 26:63: “I adjure you by the living God”, he said, “tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God”. Jesus did not play the high priest’s game and infuriated him by testifying that he, Jesus, the divine Messiah, shares the very power by which Caiaphas wanted him to swear.
In Matthew 5 Jesus challenged some of the key teachings found in the Mosaic code. He showed that he disagreed completely with the central justice system of “an eye for eye”. He also stated clearly that his followers were not to get involved in oath-taking, as if to say that there were special occasions in their lives when their words would be more true than at other times. Rather when Christians speak, we should tell the truth at all times. “Do not take an oath at all”, Jesus said, “Let what you say simply be ‘Yes’ or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:34-36).
James was so convinced about what Jesus had to say that he copied his words more or less verbatim and put it in his general epistle, as we can see above.
How about us? Do we take the words of Jesus as commands, and make them part of the fabric of our life, teaching them by example and as we advise other believers?
Let’s follow the words of Jesus.
Loving Father, help me to follow the words of Jesus and to make them part of my daily life. In Jesus’ name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. This weekend James is speaking at our Peterborough church. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.