Words for the Glory of God!
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.
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
If you were looking for a lesson on how we should manage our spoken communication in a manner that pleases God, any wisdom literature would work. Our words matter, because they reflect what one soul would communicate to another. They reflect our view of reality, what we feel is really important, how we evaluate the significance of other people etc. We are meant to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. So, our words are to reflect this. We love God, therefore, we model His character in our speech. We love our neighbor, therefore, we desire for them and act in accordance with their best interests.
In our culture, there is a lot of talk about words being violence. Words matter. But, just because we speak something that someone else does not like is not violence. If this is true, then ultimately we will not be able to speak at all.
James touches on our words often. Tame the tongue! And no one can tame the tongue. Rather than beating ourselves up for not managing our words perfectly, let’s recognize the potential we have to bless others by what we say, and then let’s be a blessing!!
The first way we can be a blessing to others is by being truthful! That is what the issue of oaths is all about.
- Do not Swear Oaths Lightly
I am not going to say to never swear an oath, because there are appropriate times to do so. If you take on the responsibilities of public office, it is appropriate to swear an oath. When you join the military, you swear an oath. When you get married, you state your commitment to God and each other using vows. When you testify in a legal proceeding, you swear an oath to state the truth as best as you are able.
- Oaths and Vows
Biblical survey of oaths and vows.
Vows are made and oaths are taken in order to assure someone of the surety of the one making the vow. It makes a failure to be true to one’s word a double sin.
People make vows today and it seems that they work about as well as they always have. A vow does not make a person honest. They can be entered into lightly, even as a ruse. Marriage vows are not even understood by the people who make them. We say for better or for worse, but have no idea what that is. As an older married person, what that means is that even when life, or your spouse is disappointing to you, you will make it your duty to love, honor and cherish them. This is a very difficult vow. What God has joined together… we make our vows to God to treat each other in this way that God has promised to treat us!
I know a man whose wife had an affair. It was extremely hard on him emotionally, spiritually and in terms of his personal identity. He has the right Biblically to divorce his wife, instead, he has taken on the task of loving as God loves. Now, she is not still having an affair, they are working on their marriage, but the wound remains! And he has learned some extremely profound things about the way that God loves us! He kept his vow for better or for worse.
- Words can be cheap
We say things that we don’t always back up. Words for the sake of words. Just like a marriage vow, what we promise we don’t always know how hard it will be to keep fulfill. And we live in a culture where talk is cheap. Bait and switch etc.
James’ treatment of the issue here sounds like it comes out of Jesus’ mouth!
Matthew 5: 33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.[
- Make your words and actions match
Yes, yes. No, no.
A simple yes or no. No manipulation necessary!
Next James gives examples of words and actions that are in harmony with each other!
- Words that Match Actions
- If in trouble pray
Prayer is an honest response. Prayer recognizes that God knows the truth. He is full of grace and mercy, but He is also full of justice and truth!
(It’s not, if you are in trouble, lie. If you are in trouble, develop a strategy to discredit others. If you are in trouble distract folks from your behavior.)
Avoid hiding the truth
Avoid tricks and strategies.
Avoid attacking and vengeance.
- If happy sing songs of joy
Reflect on the source of your happiness
Give God the glory He deserves
When we share a burden it halves. When we share a joy it multiplies! If something really outstanding happens to you, what is the first thing that you want to do? Tell someone who cares about you so you can share the joy! The retelling extends the joy to others, and when you bring joy to others, that is a really good thing.
Why do people want to be funny? Because you are a source of joy for others. Look at Ephesians 5:4
4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
- If you are sick call for others to pray
There are times when you want/need others to pray for you.
Why call the elders? Because of wisdom. Because of life experience, because of their knowledge of you and your situation etc.
God answers prayer!
III. Prayers have Power
- Prayers are instruments of physical healing
God answers prayers for healing.
Peter’s mother in law. The paralytic let down through the roof. A woman who suffered for many many years.
Miracles are rare by definition.
All healing and health is a blessing from God and should be recognized as such.
- Prayers of confession bring spiritual healing
Sin diminishes our relationship with God, our understanding of our life purpose and direction, and our peace and joy.
Sin will compound like interest. Because we don’t understand, we wander into other sin.
Confession of sin puts us back on the right track. Confession of who God is puts us on the right track.
Confession of the need for Jesus’ teaching and example:
Matthew 7: 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
- Prayer is about God
Prayer is not God. Prayer is not manipulation. People talk about getting hundreds of people to pray for them like that is a guarantee of getting what we ask for.
The goal of prayer is to connect us to God. And just like that we have arrived back at the beginning of the book!
James 1: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
And God’s greatest goal for our lives is that we would reflect His character. He brings hardship to our lives. We are told to endure it like discipline. Discipline has a point, and if we pray to have the point of our suffering removed, then we have made our suffering meaningless.