How to Speak the Truth Plainly

“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 5:12 (NIV)

When James tells us not to swear, he’s not talking about profanity. He’s talking about making an oath by referring to something else, as if you don’t have enough integrity in yourself to keep your own word.

Swearing “to God” is taking his name in vain. But you should also never say, “I swear on a stack of Bibles” or “I swear on my mother’s grave.” You cheapen your own integrity when you have to appeal to something besides your own character.

As a follower of Jesus, your word should stand on its own. Just speak the truth plainly! Don’t embellish it. Don’t shade it. Don’t twist it. If you mean yes, say “yes.” If you mean no, say “no.” Do this even when it feels like very few people in politics, the media, or even in your own circle are doing it.

James was not the first person to say that speaking the truth plainly is the foundation of all integrity. In fact, his half-brother, Jesus Christ, said it, and Paul said it too. (Anytime God says something three times in Scripture, you better believe it’s important to him.)

Paul says, “Do you think I am like the people of the world who say ‘Yes’ when they really mean ‘No’? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’” (2 Corinthians 1:17-19 NLT).

When so many people seem to be speaking lies or half-truths, then speaking plainly, with integrity, will make you countercultural. It will also make you more like Jesus; he never wavered between yes and no. Being more Christlike should be your motivation for having integrity.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:34-37 NIV).

If you’re going to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, you need to have integrity. You can start building integrity today by speaking the truth plainly.

Talk It Over

  • What are some of the small ways you waver between yes and no? What difference do you think it makes to the people with whom you interact?
  • Why do you think it is so difficult for people to say “no” to things they know they cannot commit to or do not fully believe in?
  • In what area of your life do you need to start having more integrity by speaking the truth plainly?

Give hope, prayer, and encouragement below. Post a comment & talk about it.