The Power of Yes and No (James 5:12)

First Baptist Church

“The Power of Yes and No”

(James 5:12)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

May 6, 2018

Introductory Comments:

We’re nearing the end of our study in the book of James, but I’m trying to drag it out, so today I’m only covering one verse. ?

In all seriousness, this verse sort of stands on its own because it’s sandwiched in a section about patience for the Lord’s coming, and what we’ll study next week, which is a passage on prayer.

This is at least the sixth section in James’ letter that has to do with what we say. 

This verse is very important; so much so that James says at the beginning of the verse, “Above all.”

In the midst of everything that he has said in his letter, this is uniquely important. 

Well, let’s see what he has to say, let’s look at the passage together. 

Read the Passage

Read James 5:12

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “yes” mean “yes,” and your “no” mean “no,” so that you won’t fall under judgment.

Let’s pray together.


One thing that most of us do in our households is try to teach our children to tell the truth all of the time; even in the little things. 

So, a child (or perhaps an adult) from time to time may say something like, “I pinky swear.” Or, “Cross my heart and hope to die.” Or, “I swear on my mother’s grave,” in order to show they are really telling the truth. 

But James steers us away from that. He points us in another direction. 

So, this morning, let’s look at two ways what we say speaks for us.

First, . . . 

I. Our Word Speaks to Our Integrity (v. 12) [on screen]

We’ve probably all heard the phrase, “Your word should mean something.”

We teach that to our kids, we want that from other people, and most of us desire that for ourselves.

Not many people want to be known as someone who doesn’t tell the truth. 

When we say something, people should know that we speak the truth. We should be known for our integrity. 

To have integrity means to be honest, to be truthful, to be trustworthy. 

What we say and how we respond to what we say speaks to our integrity.

If you want to know if someone has integrity just give it some time and it will reveal itself. 

If what they say is never upheld, if you can’t trust what they say, then they don’t integrity.


James says that we shouldn’t have to add any further declarations to what we say in order for people to think we are telling the truth. 

He says, “do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath.”

This is not to say that we cannot take an oath in a different context, such as an oath of office, or whatever. 

This is to say that when it comes to telling the truth, we shouldn’t need anything else except our word. 

James tells us simply, “let your “yes” mean “yes,” and your “no” mean “no.”

That’s it! When you say “yes,” it should mean “yes.” When you say “no,” it should mean “no.”

If you have to add anything to it, it could speak to your integrity or lack thereof. 

What do people think when you say, “yes?” 

What do people think when you say, “no?”

If you are a follower of Jesus, your word should be enough. 

Let your “yes” be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.”

Our word speaks to our integrity. 

Second, . . .

II. Our Integrity Speaks to Our Judgment (v. 12) [on screen]

James says very clearly, “so that you won’t fall under judgment.”

Well, what would lead us to fall under judgment?

The natural interpretation is that we would fall under judgment if our “yes” didn’t mean “yes,” and if our “no” didn’t mean “no.”

So, then, if we lack integrity we will fall under judgment. 

What is James trying to get at here? If a Christian lacks integrity does that mean that he or she will face the judgment of God?

Let’s talk about that for just a second. 

First of all, some translations use the word condemned rather than judgment. 

The idea here is that there will be a pronouncement or sentence against us because of our lack of integrity. 

We need to think of judgment here in two ways:

First, in the sense that as those who profess Christ we will be held accountable for how we lived as followers of Jesus. 

We are responsible for how we live as Christians. 

This has been James’ message for quite some time in his letter. 

James is reminding us, encouraging us, and calling us to live lives that have truly been changed by Jesus. 

Second, we must be careful that we aren’t pretending to be Christians when we really aren’t. 

James would have us know that faith without works is dead. Listening to God’s Word without doing what it says is ultimately unfruitful. 

If God’s Word calls us to be people of integrity then we should strive to do so. If we do not strive to do so, that raises questions about our relationship with God. 

Rather than receiving the eternal blessings of those who are in Christ, if we are pretenders, we will actually receive the judgment of God. That’s what James is also getting at. 

We must understand this, church: if we are consistently people who lack integrity in what we say we are at best inconsistent followers of Jesus, and at worst we are not Christians at all. 


There is no in-between. 

James says that we could fall under judgment because of our lack of integrity. 

May it not be so with the people of First Baptist Church Bartow. 

Concluding Thoughts:

There’s some discussion about whether or not James means “above all” in regards to this verse only, or to the entire section that follows it. 

So, some would say that James means, “above all, listen to these final instructions about how to live the Christian life.” 

Well, that might be the case, and if it is, James still gives us this verse first in his “above all” section. 

James wants us to hear this. 

James has been imploring us to live as genuine followers of Jesus throughout his entire letter. 

He says to us now: 12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “yes” mean “yes,” and your “no” mean “no,” so that you won’t fall under judgment.

Let us live as Christians ought to live because we are new creations by the work of God. 

The bottom line this week is taken directly from the text. 

Here it is:

Bottom Line: Let your “yes” mean “yes,” and your “no” mean “no.”  [on screen]


That’s it. Focus on that this week. 

Focus on that in these two ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Evaluate your YESes and NOs.  [on screen]

Think about what you say to others. 

How do people respond to what you say?

Sometimes we say something and we don’t do it, not because of some malicious attitude, but simply because it’s not important enough to us. 

Well, as people of the truth, if we say we will do something, we should make it important to us.

So, think about and evaluate if your “yes” means “yes,” and your “no” means “no.”

  1. Fight for integrity.  [on screen]

Whatever you have to do, be a person of integrity. 

Perhaps you need to correct some things that you’ve said in the past. 

Perhaps you need to be honest about something that you’re withholding from someone. 

It may be very difficult for you to do this, but it’s worth doing in order to have integrity. 

If you have a lack of integrity, here’s how to fix it: repent before God, repent before others, change your ways, and live for the glory of God!

What must you do to be a person of integrity?

Whatever that is, fight to make it happen!

Fight to have integrity!


There is judgment reserved for those of us who lack integrity.

However, there is also forgiveness reserved for those of us who lack integrity. 

You can seek forgiveness from your friends and family, from your brothers and sisters in Christ, from those you work with.

And, best of all, you can seek forgiveness from God!

Go to God now and ask Him to take that judgment away from you and allow it to be satisfied by the blood of Jesus. 

Today we’re speaking about speaking the truth. 

The beauty of the gospel is that the Truth spoke to us.

Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Come to the Father, through Jesus. 

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – The Nail-Scarred Hand


Tonight we will be gathered here for our series “On Mission Every Day” at 5:30 PM. Tonight we will discuss “The Process for the Mission.” I hope to see you here tonight and Wednesday night as we gather for fellowship dinner at 5:15 PM and prayer and Bible study at 6:00 PM. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.