“Integrity of the Faithful” – James 5:12

August 18th, 2013

James 5:12

“Integrity of the Faithful”

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Bible Memory Verse for the WeekTherefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25


Background Information:

  • It is easy to say things you do not mean, and even make bargains with God, when you are going through difficulties.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 162)
  • To take a vow is an extreme manifestation of impatience.  James says “above all” because to take a rash vow before God is worse than grumbling before men (5:9).  Yet “above all” can sometimes appear in the epistolary conclusions of Hellenistic letters, and, as we just saw, it does open a final series of thought on speech.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 188)
  • James has been saying, “Be patient in your suffering.  Remember the Lord is coming.  Remember the example of the prophets.  Remember the perseverance of Job.  Remember the Lord’s full compassion and mercy.”  Now he says, “Above all, don’t fall into swearing, as if you could manipulate God by your oaths.  Instead, speak honestly and directly, and rely on God in prayer.”  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 177)
  • Any oath in which the name of God was directly used was considered to be definitely binding; but any oath in which direct mention of the name of God was not made was held not to be binding.  The idea was that, once God’s name was definitely used, he became an active partner in the transaction, but he did not become a partner unless his name was so introduced.  The result of this was that it became a matter of skill and sharp practice to find an oath which was not binding.  This made a mockery of the whole practice of confirming anything by an oath.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 126)
  • The phrase “you have heard that the ancients were told” does not refer to the teaching of OT but to rabbinic tradition.  The declaration “You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord” appears on the surface to be in harmony with the OT teaching regarding the sacredness of taking oaths.  But there was a hidden “out” in it; rabbinic teaching held that only vows to the Lord were binding.  In their thinking, God was only a party to an oath if His name were invoked.  All other oaths, they taught, could be (and were intended to be) violated without committing perjury–much as people in our culture invalidate their vows by saying, “I had my fingers crossed.”  Attempting to deceive others, many Jews would swear by heaven, Jerusalem, the temple, the altar in the temple, the veil in the temple, their own heads, etc.–anything but the name of the Lord.  Such evasive swearing was intended to hide their lying hearts.  In Mt 23:16-22, Jesus condemned the Jewish religious leaders for this hypocritical practice.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 270)


Quotes to note on swearing, oaths and vows:

  • The specific speech-related issue James focused his attention on is that of swearing.  In this context to swear does not mean (as it often does in English) to use illicit speech, dirty talk, double entendre, filthy jokes, or four-letter words–the type of unwholesome, nonedifying speech the apostle Paul forbids in Eph 4:29 (cf. Eph 5:4).  Instead, it refers to the taking of oaths.  The Jews of James’ day had developed a complex system of swearing oaths, the influences of which Jewish Christians brought with them into the church.  It is against the abuses of that system that James wrote.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 265)
  • At the time of the Reformation, many in the Anabaptist tradition believed this was the case and refused by consequence to take oaths in the courtroom or anywhere else–a belief that many sincere Christians continue to hold.  However, it is questionable whether either Jesus or James intended to address the issue of official oaths, oaths that responsible authorities ask us to take.  What both have in mind seem to be voluntary oaths.  Even with these, it is argued, the intention is not to forbid any oath, but only oaths that would have the intention of avoiding absolute truthfulness.  This would seem to be the problem that Jesus addressed (cf. Mt 23:16-22) and the evidence from Paul’s epistles show that he, for one, continued to use oaths (Rom 1:9; 2 Cor 1:23; 11:11; Gal 1:20; Phil 1:8; 1 Thes 2:5, 10).  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 174)
  • David swore oaths with Jonathan (1 Sm 20:12-17; 2 Sm 21:7), Saul (1 Sm 24:21-22), Shimei (2 Sm 19:23), and God (2 Sm 3:35).  The people of Israel under Joshua swore an oath (Josh 6:26), as did the people of Judah during King Asa’s reign (2 Chr 15:14), and the returned exiles (Ezra 10;5; Neh 10:28-30).  The apostle Paul took a vow to God (Acts 18:18), and took an oath of truthfulness by writing to the Corinthians: “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying” (2 Cor 11:31; cf. 1:23; Rom 9:1).  Even an angel swore an oath (Rv 10:5-6).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 267) 
  • Scripture records cases where God takes oaths for the sake of those who do not know he is reliable.  Similarly, Jesus spoke under oath at his trial (Mt 26:63-64).  Paul also took vows, calling God as his witness (Rom 1:9; 2 Cor 1:23; 1 Th 2:10).  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 187) 
  • The oft-repeated OT phrase “As I live” offers further evidence of God’s swearing by Himself (Nm 14:21, 28; Dt 32:40; Isa 49:18; Jer 22:24; 46:18; Ezek 5:11; 14:16, 18, 20; 16:48; 17:16, 19; 18:3; 20:3, 31, 33; 33:11, 27; 34:8; 35:6, 11; Zeph 2:9; Rom 14:11).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 269)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why is James so concerned that Christians speak the unvarnished, unadulterated truth with clarity and honesty?


Answers: Because God is Truth and because all lies and deception come from Satan.  We need to reflect who we are—created in the image of God.  Our dishonesty or fudging of the truth is an indication that we do not have faith in the God of all truth.


People who are pious use language to convince others that they are more holy than they actually are. — Alistair Begg


The Word for the Day is . . .Honest


We are in a new world, a post-Christian world, a world of self-deceiving pscychobabblers from whose minds the moral laws of a whole civilization have been swept away. (Harry Blamires; The Post Christian Mind, 60)


What is James attempting to communicate in this important verse?:

I.  Deceptive dishonest speech is more of an offense to God than you could possibly imagine. (Jas 5:12a; see also: Lv 19:11-12; 27:8-9; Nm 30:2-14; Dt 23:21-23; Jud 11:30-35;  1 Chr 29:17; Ps 101:7; Zech 8:16-17; Mt 5:33-37; Jn 8:43-44; Heb 11:32)


The merest whiff of exasperation makes us exclaim “for heaven’s sake”, but, apart from the fact that “heaven” here is a circumlocution for “God” and therefore a concealed misuse of his name, the light expletive opens the door a crack and prepares the way for the greater.  James Adamson is correct when he notes that even the sincere but needless invocation of God’s name in common speech can only lead in the end to irreverence.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 184)


The Mishnah devotes one whole section called Shebuoth (“oaths”) to an elaborate discussion of when oaths are binding and when they are not.  In effect, the swearing of oaths had degenerated to a system which indicated when a man could lie and when not.

The results were disgraceful.  There was an undying epidemic of frivolous swearing.  Oaths were continually mingled with everyday speech: “By your life”–“By my beard”–“May I never see the comfort of Israel if…”  There was a trivialization of everyday language and a devaluation of integrity.  Evasive swearing became a fine art.  The height of accomplishment was, while lying, to convince another you were telling the truth by bringing some person or eminent object into reference.  For instance, one rabbi taught that if one swore by Jerusalem one was not bound; but if one swore toward Jerusalem it was binding–evidently because that in some way implied the divine Name.  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 246-47)


We often embellish the truth, sometimes without even realizing it: profits become greater, one’s strengths grow, our humility increases, all in the telling.  We sometimes frighten ourselves at how easily we fall to this.  But the greatest tragedy is when we shrug our shoulders and go on, for after all, to bend an aphorism, “to lie is human.”  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 250)


God expects vows to be kept.  Because oaths invoke God’s holy name (Dt 6:13), they are not to be taken lightly.  Nm 30:2 states that “if a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth” (cf. Ps 15:1-4).  Women were also expected to keep their vows (cf. Nm 30:3ff).  To fail to do so was to take God’s name in vain (Ex 20:7; Lv 19:12).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 268)


We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.  Why do we fail to love or keep promises or live unselfishly?  Of course, the general answer is “because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer in any actual circumstance is that there is something you feel you must have to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God himself.  We would not lie unless we first had made something – human approval, reputation, power over others, financial advantage—more important and valuable to our hearts than the grace and favor of God.  The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 166)


Certainly there is no sin that doth more weary the patience of God, because there is no sin that doth more banish the fear of God out of our hearts.  (Thomas Manton, Geneva Series of Commentaries: James, 439)


The formula is simple: when relativism holds sway long enough, everyone begins to do what is right in his own eyes without any regard for submission to truth.  In this atmosphere, a society begins to break down.  Virtually every structure in a free society depends on a measure of integrity–that is, submission to the truth.  When the chaos of relativism reaches a certain point, the people will welcome any ruler who can bring some semblance of order and security.  So a dictator steps forward and crushes the chaos with absolute control.  Ironically relativism–the great lover of unfettered freedom–destroys freedom in the end.  (John Piper, Think, 114)


Our actions must be genuine: “You can’t make the other person feel important in your presence if you secretly feel that he or she is a nobody.  — Les Giblin


II.  Your compulsion to swear or make a vow indicates the reality of your lack of integrity. (Jas 5:12b see also: Dt 6:13; 10:20; Isa 6:5; Jer 5:2; Mt 5:33-37; 23:16-22 )


Oath-taking is popular because people are liars. (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 56)


Another significant antidote to hypocrisy (in addition to integrity and purity) is transparency.  On one level, hypocrisy is failing to acknowledge the inconsistencies in our life.  It is denial.  It is, as the Bible describes it, trying to remove a speck from someone else’s eye when you have a log in your own.  Living with integrity starts with being transparent.  (David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 54-55)


It is often argued that Matthew and James diverge on one crucial point: Matthew suggests a “substitute oath”–“yes, yes” and “no, no” (the RSV translation is a bit misleading here; a literal translation would read “let your word be Yes, yes, No, no”), while James simply prohibits all oaths.  But it is more likely that Jesus in Matthew is saying the same thing as James: our truthfulness should be so consistent and dependable that we need no oath to support it: a simple “yes” or “no” should suffice.  “Our mere word should be as utterly trustworthy as a signed document, legally correct and complete” (Mitton).  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 174)


Philo says, “Frequent swearing is bound to beget perjury and impiety.”  The Jewish Rabbis said, “Accustom not thyself to vows, for sooner or later thou wilt swear false oaths.”  The Essenes forbade all oaths.  They held that if a man required an oath to make him tell the truth, he was already branded as untrustworthy.  The great Greeks held that the best guarantee of any statement was not an oath but the character of the man who made it; and that the ideal was to make ourselves such that no one would ever think of demanding an oath from us because he would be certain that we would always speak the truth.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 126-27)


James flatly prohibits the use of oaths because even the honest use of oaths testifies that something is amiss in the community.  If believers reliably told one another the truth, what need would there be of oaths to guarantee truth-telling?  If I must make towering oaths to buttress my speech, I admit paradoxically that my speech is unreliable without such support.  The greater the weight of a man’s oaths in the short run, the greater the doubt about his veracity in the long run.

Instead, we should tell the truth so consistently that oaths become superfluous, a waste of words.  The existence of oaths, as a convention of speech, proves we live in a deceitful age.  The family of God should be so truthful that we never need oaths or vows to verify our words.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 186-87)


James says we must not swear by any created thing, lest we be condemned, whether for violating oaths or for being so unreliable that we need to take oaths in the first place.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 187)


Dr. Helmut Thielicke, the scholar and pastor who resisted compromising his integrity during the Hitler era, put it like this: “Whenever I utter the formula ‘I swear by God,’ I am really saying, ‘Now I’m going to mark off an area of absolute truth and put walls around it to cut it off from the muddy floods of untruthfulness and irresponsibility that ordinarily overruns my speech.’  In fact, I am saying even more than this.  I am saying that people are expecting me to lie from the start.  And just because they are counting on my lying to have to bring up these big guns of oaths and words of honor…”   (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 248)


He urges his readers to be the kind of people who simply mean what they say, apart from any dramatic appeal to oaths.  Failing to be that kind of people betrays an inability to understand the nature of true religion.  It also betrays the fundamental impiety of our lives where we act as if God isn’t present when we play the cultural games of “acceptable” dishonesty.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 193)


Oaths give suspicion of men’s falseness and lightness.  If men were serious and sincere in their discourses, their word would be equivalent to an oath, and their very affirming would be swearing; whereas others in a doubtful case are hardly credited, though they swear never so deeply, because they swear so commonly; for having prostituted the highest and most solemn way of assurance to every trifle, they have nothing left wherewith to establish a controverted truth.  (Thomas Manton, Geneva Series of Commentaries: James, 438)


III.  A Christian’s speech should be honest, clear and truthful. (Jas 5:12c see also: Nm 30:2; 2 Cor 1:18; Eph 4:25; Col 3:9)  


To say “yes” and mean it, to say “no” and equally mean it, is a matter of integrity of character rather than a form of words.  In this way James returns (as with his reference to the heart in v. 8) to his favorite topic, that we should be people without internal division, free of the double-mind, whole-hearted with God and with man.  We practice a devotion to the truth with our lips because the truth dwells in us.  (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 185)


Making oaths was a common practice, and James wanted it discontinued among the believers.  People made disrespectful or arrogant verbal guarantees that they themselves could reverse by legal technicalities.  Like boldfaced warranties with lots of fine print, these oaths were intended to create an impression of truth–but those who uttered them did not really expect to be held to them.  Christians should not need to use oaths in order to guarantee the truth of what they say.  Our honesty should be unquestionable.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 135)


The basic issue at hand is total honesty in everyday conversation.  The member of the Christian community should not need to use an oath to prove the veracity of what he is saying.  That would “make some speech more honest than other speech.”  (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary:  James, 127)


One’s mere word should be as trustworthy as a signed agreement attested by legal witnesses.  —Curtis Vaughan


It is from carelessness as much as intentional lying that so much falsehood abounds.  So we must be careful about what we say.  If it is not true, we ought to correct ourselves.  If we have been giving the wrong impression, straighten it out.  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 251)


The point of this command and its parallel in Mt 5:34 is that the Christian does not need to swear, for his word is his bond:  swearing is necessary only in a society where the truth is not reverenced.  Whether he swears or not, the Christian ought always to speak the truth, and this will mean that a simple unadorned “Yes” or “No” is sufficient.  (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 195-96)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How does a relationship with Christ encourage me to be a person of verbal integrity?:

A-  A follower of the Truth will desire to speak truth. (Lv 19:12; 1 Kgs 17:24; 22:16; Jn 14:6)


Franciscan Richard Rohr writes, “Humility and honesty are really the same thing.  A humble person is simply a brutally honest person about the whole truth.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 124)


Jesus lifted all conversation in His church to the level of sacredness.  Believers are to be known as people who keep their word, having such integrity that their simple yes and no will suffice for people.  In the words of Paul, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor” (Eph 4:25).  Speaking the truth in every situation will cause believers to shine forth in the darkness of a world of lies.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 271)


From the very beginning, James has said that his readers’ faith is being tested in the trials (1:3).  In the midst of trials, Christians are to ask God in faith (1:6).  It is because they hold faith in Christ that they are not to show favoritism (2:1).  It is faith that constitutes true riches (2:5).  James has gone to great lengths to emphasize that genuine faith will manifest itself in deeds (2:14-26).  His whole letter is a plea for his readers to be not merely religious people, but people of faith.

Now it is the lack of faith that must appall James in the act of swearing.  It is unbelief that would move his readers to try to save themselves by a manipulative use of oaths.  It is through lack of faith that we disbelieve God’s “compassion and mercy” and so want to strike a bargain.  Striking a bargain with God cuts at the very heart of the gospel; it is an attempt to rely on the worth of one’s own offering instead of relying on God’s grace in the offering of Christ on the cross.  Bargaining is a reliance on works; James is insisting that we rely on grace.  He is again teaching the opposite of what some have portrayed as an anti-Pauline works-righteousness.  James says above all and you will be condemned because he is addressing not just a simple matter of dishonesty but a fundamental lack of faith and denial of grace.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 177-78)


Radical truthfulness is one of the greatest needs of the church today.  The church needs people who not only refrain from blatant lying, but represent themselves and others as they really are.  Paul says truthfulness is necessary for growth in the church: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Eph 4:15).  We are to be literally truthing in love–speaking and doing truth to each other.  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 250)


We must feed on the Word of God.  Jesus’ prayer for us is, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (Jn 17:17).  When we discipline ourselves to feed on the Word, we will fill ourselves with truth, progressively producing what God desires–“truth in the inner parts” (Ps 51:6a).  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 251)


How believers speak was of grave concern to James since it manifests what is in their hearts; it is a test of living faith (cf. Mt 12:34-37; Lk 6:43-45).  The prohibition against false swearing in verse 12 reflects the truth that a Spirit-transformed heart will reveal itself in honest speech.  How people speak is the most revealing test of their true spiritual state.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 265)


Like Scripture writers, Augustine thinks of the heart not just as the seat of emotion or desire but also as the governing center of a human being–the human being at his center, at his core, considered in his fundamental orientation.  From the heart “flow the springs of life” (Prv 4:23).  Hence, in Scripture, integrity is a pure heart (Mt 5:8); where integrity is lacking, it is the heart that is “perverse” and “devious above all else” (Jer 17:9).  Accordingly, when Paul wants to describe the source of our new power, love, and integrity, he testifies that Jesus Christ has taken up residence at the governing center of human lives: he “dwells in our hearts” (Eph 3:17).  Depending on its orientation, then, the fact that “the heart wants what it wants” may be our shame or our salvation.  (Augustine, The City of God, 14.13)  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, pp. 62-63)


Dogma does not have to be false to be misleading.  Even a true doctrine with an overly exaggerated emphasis can sidetrack us from Christlikeness.  (Francis Frangipane, The Days of His Presence, 91)


On a logical level, the Christian worldview is the only one that is not self-refuting.  Moreover, because it is based on historical events, it can be proven.  Most religions are, and have always been, based on myths.  Christianity is unique in that it is founded on specific historical truth claims, notably the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The historical evidence is sufficient to compel agreement from any fair investigation of the facts.  So Christianity is not just a creed or a philosophy or good ideas about how to live our lives.  It is truth.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, p. 317)


Having truth will not keep us from deception, but having a love for the truth will.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 179)


I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy: perfection or honesty.  Since I have never met a person who loves the Lord our God with all her heart, mind, and soul, and loves her neighbor as herself, I do not view perfection as a realistic alternative.  Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance.  As the Bible shows, Gods’ grace can cover any sin, including murder, infidelity, or betrayal.  Yet by definition grace must be received, and hypocrisy disguises our need to receive grace.  When the masks fall, hypocrisy is exposed as an elaborate ruse to avoid grace. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 204)


“Being conformed to the image of Christ has more to do with our honesty than our purity.”  (Steve Brown; Steve’s Letter June 2000)


Being truthful when you know it will cost you is the true test of honesty. (Bits and Pieces for Salespeople February 22, 2001, 11)


Heidelberg Catechism question  Question 112. What is required in the ninth commandment?

Answer: That I bear false witness against no man, nor falsify any man’s words; that I be no backbiter, nor slanderer; that I do not judge, nor join in condemning any man rashly, or unheard;  but that I avoid all sorts of lies and deceit, as the proper works of the devil,  unless I would bring down upon me the heavy wrath of God; likewise, that in judgment and all other dealings I love the truth, speak it uprightly and confess it;  also that I defend and promote, as much as I am able, the honor and good character of my neighbor.


B-  A clear understanding of the consequences of manipulation, error, lies, or dishonest speech helps us to be more committed to truth.  (Psa 15:1-4; 24:1-4; Prv 14:25; 15:4; 16:13; 17:20; 24:26; Ecc 5:4-6; Jer 5:1-3; Jn 8:32)


Josephus writes in reference to the Essenes, “Every statement of theirs is surer than an oath; and with them swearing is avoided, for they think it worse than perjury.  For they say that he who is untrusworthy except when he appeals to God, is already under condemnation.”  (Antiquities, 15.10)  (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 303)


My dad had imparted to me a latter-day Puritanism:  Never lie.  Always tell the truth, no matter what the cost.  Work hard at any task you are given.  Give people a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.  I learned so much about truth telling and integrity from him.  What I hadn’t learned was that by presuming I lived by his strict moral code, I would become blind to the ways I failed it.  My self-righteousness enabled me to compartmentalize: to believe I was doing the right thing while simultaneously going along with the wrong thing.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 195)


The temptation to make rash vows (Sir. 18:23) was one to which the Galileans apparently were particularly prone.  Paradoxically, swearing not only increases the untruthfulness which oaths are supposed to prevent but also as inevitably leads to blasphemy.  The oath is the commonest and most serious moral fault in speech, and James is hardly to be blamed for ranking it pro pantōn, above all errors of the tongue, e.g., boasting, grumbling, and backbiting.  (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 194)


The sobering warning he gives in verse 12 is that those who continue to blaspheme God’s holy name through lying oaths face eternal damnation; thus, this is another test of living faith.  Those whose lives are characterized by a pattern of lying give evidence of having an unregenerate heart.  And the Bible teaches that liars, spiritual children of the father of lies (Jn 8:44), will be sentenced to hell (Rv 21:8, 27; 22:15).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 271-72)


The old saying, “The first casualty of war is the truth,” helps us to grasp James’ concern here.  James is talking to communities that are enduring difficult times and are, in some respects, on the verge of open conflict.  The first victim in an atmosphere of mistrust and insecurity is typically truth telling.  In such an environment, people become suspicious of each other, and truthfulness can become very slippery.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 192)


Not only does this practice undermine the practice of true religion, but it also undermines real community, which is a primary concern of James in this letter.  When people utilize the latest linguistic games to avoid being truthful with one another, real community–in any Christian sense–is simply not possible.  In an atmosphere already tense with class conflict and judgmental spirits, James worries that oath making merely contributes to the suspicion and mistrust that poisons the fellowship of the believing community.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 192-93)


Self-deception is “corrupted consciousness,” says Lewis Smedes.  Whether fear, passion, weariness, or even faith prompts it, self-deception, like a skillful computer fraud, doubles back to cover its own trail.  “First we deceive ourselves, and then we convince ourselves that we are not deceiving ourselves.”   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 107)


It is quite difficult to break the power of religious self-deception, for the very nature of faith is to give no room for doubt.  Once a person is deceived, he does not recognize that he is deceived, because he has been deceived!  For all that we think we know, we must know this as well: we can be wrong.  If we refuse to accept this truth, how will we ever be corrected from our errors?  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 30)


We must realize that whenever we dabble with evil in the slightest way, our love is spoiled.  If we fudge truth just a little in talking to a friend, the relationship is marred.  The community is made unclean by the slightest bit of gossip.  The smallest trace of games, pretensions, or manipulations in our care for others makes our love less than whole or holy.  We want to hate with a perfect hatred all those little abs that puncture our love.  (Marva . Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 151)


Men are often willing to be baptized, to pay their money, or do anything that is respectable, rather than humble themselves by repentance.  But it is all of no avail.  We come to the footstool of sovereign mercy only by genuine self-abasement.

A man who has counterfeit money is worse off than one who has no money.  Preaching unscriptural ideas of repentance does, perhaps, more damage than not preaching repentance al all.  It is harder to unlearn an error than it is to learn the truth.   (B.T. Roberts; Fishers Of Men, 125)


Demosthenes said, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit.  For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.”  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 286)


C-  Jesus’ covering of our sins gives us the confidence, security, and peace to courageously face the implications of speaking honestly, clearly and truthfully. (2 Cor 3:12; 5:21; Heb 10:19-20)


Transparency disarms an image-is-everything generation.  (David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 56)


Sincerity is 90% of success.   And once you can fake that you have it made.   If we as Christians try to fake it with our non-Christian friends and neighbors, then we will end up driving them away because they will think that Christianity is ONLY for those who have their lives together.  We need to be sincere and tell them the truth about ourselves and what Christ has done for us as sinners. (Steve Brown Think Spot 10-2-06)


I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness.  He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him. (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 19)


James is here (as usual) cutting to an essential difference between genuine and false religion.  He is saying: Do not allow suffering to pressure you into unbelief.  Do not try to impress each other or to manipulate God as if your works were what counted instead of God’s grace.  If you are trusting in God’s grace, you have no need to impress God or people, and you can be at peace with saying honest words.  Integrity should characterize Christians, and integrity will flow from wholehearted reliance on grace.  Unbelief manifests itself in bargaining, manipulating and trying to impress.  The opposite manifestation, flowing from faith, will be prayer.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 178-79)


I think it would be a great gift to the church if God were to make us all wear neon signs listing our ten greatest sins for all the world to see.

You say, “You’ve got to be kidding!  Everyone would know.  It would be horrible for people to look at me and see all my sins!”

No, as a matter of fact, they wouldn’t even be looking at your neon sign.  They would be too busy trying to hide theirs.  And then we would finally get honest.  That wouldn’t be half bad. (Stephen Brown, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough, 131)


Jesus frees us from the need to tell lies.  You see if you don’t think you’re good enough to get into heaven you’ll have to fabricate it won’t you?  You are going to have to lie to yourself . . . The instinct is to hide.  To hide in our use of language.  To hide in all kinds of ways.

Jesus says, “Why don’t you come out into the truth?   Come out into the Light of my Truth and acknowledge what you are.  Acknowledge who you are.  You don’t need to hide from me.  You can’t lie to me.  I’m the One who frees you to never lie again in your life.  Because He is the One Who knows the worst about us and loves us just the same.  (Alistiar Begg sermon “Telling the Truth”)


Readers of the Gospels marvel at Jesus’ ability to move with ease among the sinners and outcasts.  Having spent time around “sinners” and also around purported “saints,” I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think he preferred their company.  Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them.  In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap.  In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus. ( Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 274)


True repentance only begins when one passes out of what the Bible sees as self-deception (cf. Jas 1:22, 26; 1 Jn 1:8) and modern counselors call denial, into what the Bible calls conviction of sin  (Cf. Jn 16:8).    (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 123-24)


Worship point:  When we realize how little of the truth the world is able to provide, it becomes easier and easier to worship the One Who is Truth and can only covey truth.


People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered—Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives—do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will have false friends and real enemies—be successful anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow—do good anyway.

Honesty & frankness will make you vulnerable—be honest and frank anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs—fight for the underdog anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you help them—help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth—give the world your best anyway.

Why?  Cause He said so.   — Karl Meininger


Spiritual Challenge:  Meditate on the destructive and manipulative nature of duplicitous speech.  Dream about the superior nature of a world without deception and lies.  Praise God that one day we will be able to live in such a world.




Omnisicient Father:

Help us to know who is telling

The truth.  One side tells us one

Thing, and the other just the opposite.

And if neither side is telling the

Truth, we would like to know that, too.

And if each side is telling half

The truth, give us the wisdom to put

the right halves together.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.   -Rev. Fred Holloman, chaplain of the Kansas Senate




The truth


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