But above all things, my brothers, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath…
1. It has not been an uncommon thing for men to take vows in trouble, as if they would do them any good. They have promised if certain ends could be attained to pursue certain courses of life: and sometimes to give a supposed greater efficacy, they have bound themselves with oaths. The Hebrew Christians in the first century were peculiarly exposed to this. The evil of it lay in transferring their confidence from the grace and power of God to the vows they were making, and thus begetting in them a strong tendency to confidence in magic.
2. It may have been a warning to ""hem, not to swear when they were brought before Roman magistrates, or were in the company of Pagan persecutors, in order to show by such words that they were not Christians.
3. The injunction might have applied to the temptation there was among them to conspire together in sworn bands against their persecutors; as was frequently the case in their own age and has been ever since. James saw the futility of all seditious movements. He saw that it plunged his brethren only into deeper and deeper troubles; wherefore, he besought them not to seek such modes of relief, not to bind themselves to others, or others to themselves, in order to effect deliverance, but to put all in the hand of God.
4. But whether any or all of these considerations were in the mind of our author, it is quite certain that he pronounced a very emphatic denunciation against profanity. This is a sin against God and against one's self. It is a sin against God, because it deprives Him of the honour due to His name, and is in direct disobedience to His command. The sin is not mitigated by modifications of phraseology. In the next place, it is hurtful to any man to become an habitual swearer. It is an effectual bar to his ever being great. It is utterly impossible, whatever other gifts and opportunities be afforded, that a man shall ever reach the utmost possible greatness of humanity, who himself fails to have reverence for that which is great. Reverence is the spring of all aspiration, the foundation for all lofty upbuilding of character.
(C. F. Deems, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
WEB: But above all things, my brothers, don't swear, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath; but let your "yes" be "yes," and your "no," "no;" so that you don't fall into hypocrisy.