There are certain things in life that should be easy but are not. There are other things that look easy but end up being far from it. Painting a room looks really easy until you try it. Raising a family is another of those things that look easy until you have your own. How about living a correct life, a perfect life, a righteous life? That one seems easy enough, just follow the rules. Yet even the simple rule of let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no can be a hard one. It looks simple enough to do but it is hard to carry out. James seems to sneak this one in there while we are thinking of something else and reminds us what Jesus taught:
Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. (James 5:12)
It seems simple enough to live your life in a way that you do not have to swear by anything to prove that you are serious about what you are saying. Yet, we break our word so often that we end up saying silly things like "I swear on my mother's grave", "I swear by all that is holy", "I swear on the Bible". We are suppose to be honest, people of integrity, keepers of our promise. When we commit to something, when we say yes, people should know they can depend on that word.
I believe most of us intend to do what we say but often we commit to something without thinking it through. We say yes but then later realize that we just can't fit it in. Often children are victims of this situation, busy parents promising something in haste. Children do not realize how busy life is, all they know is that mom and dad said yes so now they can count on that. Soon they discover that they are somewhere down the list of priorities and that they cannot always depend on that yes. They learn that saying yes does not always mean yes; it means "if I can".
Part of our problem is our busy and complicated lives. We somehow need to simplify things and come up with our top three or four priorities. God and our families should be at the top and everything else should fall into place after that. Easy to say but when your boss asks you to work overtime it is hard to say no. After all, the family could use the money. But ask yourself if the money is more important than you child's baseball game and the promise you made to him. Is that money more important than keeping your promise to your wife to treat her to supper tonight? Is that money more important than keeping your promise to be at Bible Study that night? You do not have to say yes to your boss after you have already said yes to other people. Simplify your life.
Another problem is not understanding the importance of the integrity of our word. There was a time when no one would dream of not doing what they said they would do. It would damage their reputation to do so. Today people do not seem too concerned about their reputation or too concerned about how their actions affect other people. We will say yes to people just to get them "off our backs" with no intention of doing what we have promised. We do not even consider the consequences of making our word unreliable, untrustworthy, hardly worth the air used to speak it.
These things lead us to the place where we have to emphasize what we promise with some form of swearing to show we really mean what we say. This should not be. When we promise something to our children they should know that we would never break that promise. When we promise something to our pastor or to our boss it should be a promise well thought through so we know we can keep that promise. We need to come up with our top priorities so those priorities know we will do what we say. We need to get back to integrity and living the importance of keeping our word. Once we get back there maybe people will be more interested in what we have to say about Jesus.