If two people are holding cups of unknown liquid and they bump into each other, some of that liquid will spill out. What is inside the cup will become evident when you bump into someone else.
So you might have a cup labeled “water,” but when you bump into someone black oil comes out…it is pretty evident that it is not water. Now, I don’t know why a person would be carrying around a cup of oil, but needless to say it isn’t water; in that human interaction the falsehood is found out…
Today, we will discuss the importance of being people who value keeping their word and the influence it has on the church as a whole. It is summed up into two sections: “Clear Character” and “Confident Community”
Clear Character -
A person’s true spiritual life can be determined by that person’s speech. That person is subject to judgement the minute they open their mouth. It was Mark Twain who said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” It is easier to conceal your character when you don’t use your speech...
How you speak and use your words is a direct product of your character.
This is an important lesson that James wants to teach us. How do we know this?
“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
Let’s read that part again, shall we?
“But above all, my brothers…”
If he is saying this powerful introduction to his next thought he must find it important right? But not only is this thought important… It is essential for Christians to obey! Jesus spoke these same words in Matthew 5:33-37:
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
Jesus and James were addressing something that was very pervasive at the time. It was a problem that had become so large that it was spreading- and Jesus did not like it one bit. What He was saying here is that He knew that the Jews of this time were going around making false promises and oaths. They would credit everything they said by swearing on something. They were using God’s name to assure others of the truthfulness of their speech.
But this was not only a problem in that time long ago; it is a problem that follows us here to this day and age. Deceptive speech is not only a sickness among unbelievers; it infects us all, believers and unbelievers alike.
Being a Christian does not mean that you are exempt from being deceptive. No, it is one of the sneakiest ways we can be pulled out of the Christian process and out of that refining fire. So Jesus says here that we ought not to make oaths at all because we should be a people that value keeping their word. We should be a people that speak in truth.
How can we have a confident faith collectively as a church, if we can’t even have faith in one another as individuals?
We need to be people who harbor clear and truthful speech. When we speak in truth it is evident to others that we live in truth. We show a Christ-like character that is clear.
We must first have a clear character before we attempt to have a confident community.
Confident Community -
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:13-18)
James addresses the issue of the individual character in the previous chapters, and is now addressing the collective character of the Christian community.
Let’s remember the analogy from the beginning of the session. It is in our interactions with one another that our character spills out. If we bump into someone else, we have the potential of spilling whatever is in our cup into theirs. When we fill the cups of those we bump into, we need to make sure that it is the pure water, not the black oil.
It is important to have a clear character because your interaction with others will spur on the habit of speaking truth. That community will be made up of people that can trust one another, living among other Christ followers that strive to have the same Christ-like character within them.
When individuals have clear character it inspires a confident community- one that has great faith because of their assurance in faith and trust in one another! They collectively come to God with pure hearts and motivated prayers. They say prayers of praise for their confidence in God. They claim prayers that have the power to heal, to move mountains, to stop the rains, and to make the rain plentiful.
When we have a confident community nothing can stop us.
These are James’s final thoughts. This whole letter he has written to believers on how to act, how to speak, and how to live…he has given us all the building blocks we need to align our individual lives with Christ and teaches us how we as individuals need to come together in our faith. He has taught us that we first have to pursue God and His character in our lives then we will have the responsibility of sharing that same wisdom and instruction with others.
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
We need to be people of truth, so that we can remind those who have forgotten and wandered, what it looks like.
His purpose is clear, as Christians we are to live a certain way…and we have the responsibility to help others do the same.
What is in your cup? In your daily speech can people see that you are a Christ follower?
As you bump into other Christians, your true character comes out. Be ready for other Christians and leaders of the church to correct you when you wander from the truth. You exemplify Christ when you say you are a Christian. You are linking His name to your promise of faith. You are making a covenant with God. If you say you are a Christian but lack the active faith we have learned about, you are making a false oath.
If you look at your life and determine that you are in right standing with God and actively live out your faith, it is time you take the next course of action. Bring someone back.
Who do you know who has wandered from the truth? Picture them…Now go and bring them back from their wandering. Bump into them so they see the pure water that spills from your cup.
Dear Lord, I want to be someone who speaks truth. I want to be an example for you. I want to be an example of truth. I want to spur on my fellow Christ followers so that we have a confident community. I pray that we have a community that can boldly approach your throne. I pray we are a people that are desperate for your blessing and miracles. I pray that we are bold enough to go after those who have lost their way. I pray that the lost might see your character in me and follow my footsteps back to you.