12And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don't add words like "I swear to God" to your own words. Don't show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can't be used against you. (James 5:12)
I can honestly say that I have read this verse many times and simply glossed over some of the meaning contained within. In this chapter, James concludes that we stop complaining about the things we are going through. He reminds us of the Prophets of old who put up with all kinds of abuse from the people they were called to serve. Even Job is brought into the picture as one who "stayed the course" and how God "brought it all together for him in the end". All this summed up with "God cares, really cares" about what happens in our life. To that, he adds the verse we see above.
Since we know God cares, we are to let our very words reveal that caring. If we do so, we don't need to add to our words - like when we say, "I swear to God". Our "yes" means yes and our "no" means no - plain and simple. Okay, I got that a long time ago, but it was the next section that I missed. We are showing impatience with God's timing when we are making "oaths" to hurry God along. In other words, when we are bargaining with God. I have made some of these "promises" with God, hoping to see him change the circumstances in just some outstanding way or in a timing completely outside of his plan. "If you will just do this God, then I will..." Aha! I guess you've done it, too!
James simply says - don't do it! You cannot rush God and you show your impatience when you do. James goes on in this chapter to describe what we need to do in tough situations. The first thing is to pray! Yep, plain and simple - pray. If we hurt, if we feel sick - pray. When do we get ourselves into the type of situations that we actually say words like, "If you will just do this God, then I will..."? It is usually when we are hurting or are ill. We bargain with God in these times with the "I will..." and "I will never..." because we want God to get us out of what we are in - and pronto.
In fact, we'd do well in the circumstance to ask God what it is we can learn right where we find ourselves. We could be in the circumstance by our own doing, or perhaps with a little help from others - regardless of "how" we got there - there is a lesson hidden for our uncovering and a blessing there for our taking. So, the next time I go asking God to move ahead of his timing or to get me out of something I have managed to get myself into, I need to remember this verse. He's there already - I just need to discover him. I can ask him to intervene, but I don't bargain with him. He knows perfectly well that I will never be able to keep my word anyway! I mean well when I promise things to God, but I am fallible. I plan to do one thing - but I soon wander off course when given the chance.
James says that we are to take a lesson from those who've gone before - the Prophets and Job are presented as the examples here. The Prophets stood in the face of much rejection - what lesson can I learn from them about how to deal with rejection, how to stand strong in the midst of hard hearts? Job lost it all - right down to the last bit of dignity he had while sitting on a pile of rubbish and covered in huge, weeping sores. What lesson can I learn about suffering from Job - how do I learn to deal with loss of family, position, or even the loyalty of friends?
One thing I need to learn is that my words reflect the depth and stability of my faith. If I say one thing and do another - my words are not backed up in my actions. If I say I trust God and then concoct a plan to outwit his timing or cover up my failure - do I really trust him as I should? Definitely not. It is time that the words we speak reflect that absolute trust we have in our heavenly Father. Let our "yes" be yes and our "no" be no - plain and simple. God is not to be bargained with - his timing is perfect - even when we don't see the tree for the forest!