Swearing = profanity, right? Not necessarily. Obviously employing our mouths to utter filthy words and careless use of his name is displeasing to God. But when the word “swear” is used in holy writ it often refers to vows.
Jms. 5:12 “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.”
Though often misused as a prohibition against cursing, this verse is actually about oaths, fitting hand-in-glove with Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:34, 35 & 37: “… 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. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Anything beyond “yes” or “no” comes from the evil one and carries with it the condemnation of James 5:12. When one is transformed by the grace of God and privileged to be no longer under condemnation (Rom. 8:1), then that individual is trustworthy. A simple yes or no will suffice. That word of that individual becomes their bond. A handshake seals the deal. Yes, I know, our culture requires all those signatures. But the trustworthiness of the individual is not in doubt.
If, instead, various oaths, promises, vows and signed contracts must be in place before an individual can be trusted to fulfill his word – then it is doubtful that person has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. They face condemnation – not because they must swear to be trusted but because the necessity of so much declaration demonstrates their unredeemed condition. Without behavior that proves faith in God to be genuine (at least the beginnings of the process of transformation), a person has reason to question the genuineness of their faith.
Is your word your bond?