Friday, July 21, 2017
Honest to God
Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; James 5
Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
SCRIPTURE: James 5:12
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 5:12 NKJV).
James here is repeating a teaching of Jesus (see Matt. 5:33-37) that addresses the fundamental core of honesty and character. The admonition to let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” is simple enough to understand. It simply means to live your life with such honesty and character that people will always be able to trust the truthfulness of the words you speak. But what is the point about not swearing oaths?
How often have you heard someone emphasize the truthfulness of a statement by saying something like, “As God is my witness” or “Honest to God”? In a court of law witnesses place their hand on a Bible and swear to, “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Why does James (and Jesus) admonish us not to swear oaths? The admonition here should not be seen as an injunction against taking a required oath in court, but rather a command to keep our lives free from the need for elaborate oaths and schemes to assure others that we are indeed telling the truth. He is pointing out that, if you are a person who has an honest character, you will not need to swear or promise in order to make others believe you. Your character will be your oath.
At the heart of honesty is the matter of truthfulness, and this is a topic which is a struggle for all of us. In the motion picture Liar Liar, actor Jim Carey plays the part of an attorney who, because of a wish his son makes, is unable to tell a lie. The story takes viewers through a day in the life of this hapless lawyer who must always, and in every circumstance, tell the unequivocal truth. The results are hilarious and strikingly poignant. If we are truthful, we will admit that not lying can be a problem. Whether people describe them as little white lies, fibs or half truths, their misleading or deceptive statements are not entirely honest. How often do we find ourselves exaggerating or stretching the truth about something to make ourselves look better? It may not be that we even intend to be untruthful, but before we know it we are embellishing a story. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then Senator Hillary Clinton and then Senator Joe Biden out on the campaign trail were criticized for embellishing stories about being shot at in war zones—stories that were proven to be less dramatic than stated. Many of us have fallen victim to some degree of dishonesty even if it was just complimenting someone when we didn’t really mean it, keeping silent when we should have told the truth, or exaggerating a story to impress others.
Lord, thank You for the reminder to watch the truthfulness of the things I say. May my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no” – That is, may I be known as a man of honesty and good character; that I may represent You well in the earth.
Through Christ Jesus. Amen. -AP