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. James 5, verse 12.
James is simply echoing his brother, Jesus, who said much the same thing. And for much the same reason. And that reason is?
Verbosity. Wordiness. Something from which I suffer.
Biscuits are great. I like to say I make the best ones in Texas. They’re light, flaky, fluffy, golden brown, and chock full of butter. That’s the secret, you know: butter. You can never have too much butter. Gravy is pretty great, too; I make pretty darn good gravy as well. Put them together and you have a staple of a southern breakfast. Alone, they are one or the other; together they are much more. Alone, your body can quickly metabolize a biscuit, or a serving of gravy; you probably won’t gain weight. Add them together, however, and you get a host of complex carbohydrates, fats, and calories that will both fill you up and weigh you down. I think I’m still carrying about 100 biscuits and gravy from 20111. But, you know, I LOVE a good breakfast, and nothing says ‘comfort food’ like a plate of my homemade biscuits and an iron skillet full of Jimmy Dean gravy. They’re really easy to make; I don’t understand why more people don’t have them for breakfast. In fact, if you come around my house on Saturday morning, you can pull up a chair and we’ll chow down on the best biscuits and gravy in the old Confederacy.
Terrible analogy? Maybe, but it serves a point. It says too much. Like my words do here. Sometimes. Sometimes there is much to say, but I don’t need to make a show of saying it. Who remembers what Edward Everett Horton said one Pennsylvania November morning? He spoke for over two hours, and while I’m sure it was good, it wasn’t memorable. Or helpful. But everyone remembers what Abraham Lincoln said that same day, 150 years ago. It’s called “The Gettysburg Address.”
Old Abe, he didn’t waste words, or swear by this or that, or try to embellish to puff himself up. He left it at facts, simple opinions, and colorful but pointed stories. We remember that. So does the Lord.
The better way is to be plainspoken, and to not waste words. Let your meaning speak through the fog of language by using plain, simple, easy to understand words. In doing so, you paint yourself as honest and forthright. In doing so, you show the world that you’re true to God. That’s the point Jesus and James are making here.
Lord, help me to be plainspoken for You.
Are you verbose?
Do you mangle a syllable?
In what ways do you talk too much and take away from God what is His?