As many scholars have noticed, the epistle of James is deeply influenced by the teachings of Jesus during His earthly ministry, often alluding to His words and addressing similar issues.
The Moody Bible Commentary points out 24 parallels between James and the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s verse brings to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:33–37: “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
How is this command connected to the theme of patience? The vows to which both Jesus and James referred were often hastily made but not kept. As Ecclesiastes reminds us, only fools make rash vows (5:1–7). This indicates a lack of integrity, a failure to take words and promises seriously. It’s also connected to the theme of humility, reminding us that we cannot control the situation—we can’t even control the hair on our own heads!
While some Christians have taken this command to mean, for example, that they should not swear to tell the truth in court, that’s not the point. Jesus, after all, answered under oath at His trial (Matt. 26:63–64) and Paul on occasion called God as his witness (2 Cor. 1:23). The point is that we’re to tell the honest truth in all cases, with or without an oath. What is forbidden is speech that is flippant, untruthful, or profane.
Again, mature faith is seen in self-control with words (3:2). When enduring trials and troubles, it might be easy to let our tongues run wild. But mature faith allows perseverance to finish its work in us so that we can resist temptations to respond with rash promises. Instead, we’re to “consider it pure joy” and press on in faith (1:2–4).
If you don’t swear oaths, here’s an exhortation from James that you’ve heeded, right? But many of us hastily agree to or refuse commitments without prayerful consideration. We speak rashly in response to frustrations rather than enduring patiently. Ask God to give you a spirit of patience and humility to guard your words.