12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment (James 5).
The context of this statement tells us James is not talking about “swear words”—rather, he is talking about “oath” words. In those days in order to make others believe they really and truly meant what they were saying, it was common for people either to preface or follow their statement with an oath of some kind. The greater the oath, the more reliable the statement; the lesser the oath, the more the statement could be subject to parsing and interpretation.
But this is not how Christians should speak. In fact, because this teaching is so important to James (who already warned about the use ofthe tongue in chapter 3), he uses the words “But above all” to introduce it. The point is, what Christians say should be accepted on face value so much so, that no oath is needed to give it any more credibility. When we say “yes,” we mean “yes,” and when we say “no,” we mean “no”—period, end of discussion.
Lord, help our words This Day not to need any props. Amen.