A few years ago, I was serving at Sunday school. One day, the head teacher asked if I could help transcribe kids’ praise songs onto manila cardboards, to be used in future sessions. I readily agreed to complete the task in a few weeks. But I didn’t do it.
Months later, the teacher asked me for the signs. I had completely forgotten about it by then (to the point where I even denied her ever asking me to do it). For days, I insisted that she was wrong . . . only to later find the worship CDs, cardboards, and unused markers in a corner of my room.
In shame I returned them, the work undone and my credibility damaged. Though I had meant to complete it when I first agreed, my forgetfulness revealed that I actually didn’t give much regard to what I had said I would do.
I’m sure many of us have been careless with our words one way or another. Perhaps you had agreed to pray for a friend, but you forgot all about it. Or you could be at the receiving end, where your friends agreed to help you out at a church event but backed out at the last minute. Do we take our words seriously? Could it be that we don’t truly mean what we say?
In this passage, James is urging the reader to always be honest in our speech. It is a call for radical truthfulness in the life of every Christian. We are to be honest because we are made in the image of God. God always means what He says. No empty words ever leave His mouth, and all His promises are true and sure (2 Corinthians 1:20; Isaiah 55:11).
As God’s witnesses, do we reflect Him in this?
Or do we find ourselves making vows such as, “I swear I’ll do it!”, in order to be trusted by others? In James’ day, vows were often made to establish a person’s credibility in what was said or promised. But here, James is challenging that practice and suggesting that this should be done away with, if only we would simply keep our word at all times.
When we continually keep our promises, others will notice and recognize our integrity, and take us at our word. This trust is valuable in any situation, whether at work, studies, or in our relationships. Some people may also become curious about our truthful spirit, and it is then that we can happily point them to God and the gospel truths.
As Christians, let us intentionally choose to be honest. Whether in keeping our promises or speaking the truth in all situations, may we endeavor to honor God daily in pursuing the simple “Yes” or “No.”
—Charmain Sim, Malaysia
Questions for reflection
1. Think about the times when you didn’t believe someone’s words because you knew the person didn’t mean it. How did this affect your view of the person and his beliefs, and your trust towards him?
2. What have you learned from this verse about your speech?
In what ways can you honor God with your words?
Charmain is a dreamer and pseudo-nomad whose life is best described by Hillsong United’s “Captain”. As a daughter of a merchant navy captain, she grew up sailing the seas. She’s now settled in Singapore . . . more or less. She is learning that true discipleship is marked by daily faithfulness and obedience more than sporadic inspiration. She writes because it helps her process experiences, and also because God has called her to it. When she’s not dreaming, Charmain loves an evening in with a bowl of ice-cream, a TV show or book, and her husband.