Playing the God Card
James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no…
I swear to God that I’ll that I’ll change… I’ll never eat a whole box of donuts again… I’ll never yell at the kids like that again…. I’ll never look at that website again… I’ll never gamble again… I’ll never use again… Really, this time I mean it… I swear to God…
In my efforts to convince others and myself that I’ve changed, I have mistakenly invoked heavenly language. I have, in my desperation, made desperate promises, but I was mistaken if I thought my promises had any actual effect on my behavior.
When I fail and cause destruction, I want to change. I want to fix the discomfort and I want to be different next time. Even if it’s as simple as eating too many donuts, James says the solution is not to invoke God’s name in a promise. The answer is not to persuade others or myself that next time will be different. The only solution is to actually be different. It is our authentic transformation, not our words that will convince others.
James warns me not to drag God’s name into my bad behavior. He says I condemn myself when I swear by God and then fail. If and when I do repent again, no one will believe me when I tell them I really, really found God. But God is truly changing me this time!
I have done this and I meet many who continue to do this. We want to be different and we desperately want others to see us as different. The problem is that we have proved a pattern of behavior for years. Again, this is true even if it as simple as eating too many donuts. It rings hollow to swear to God that I will never ever again eat donuts if I have not actually stopped eating donuts.
James says our behavior will prove our words to be true, not the other way around. When our actions change, others will eventually come to believe. This will not be instant. Ten years of bad behavior will not be undone in ten days of dieting. We desperately want others to give us credit for the change we see and we are frustrated when they do not applaud us yet. They of course are waiting to see if it is authentic. This may take years.
The temptation is to think I can go out and prove to everyone how I have changed by doing some random good behavior. If I go buy broccoli once (instead of donuts) I can triumphantly proclaim my good deeds for all to see. God sees through my counterfeit efforts and of course, others do too.
The solution is not to make empty promises or to go out and do a bunch of good deeds. The changed life needs to be evidenced in the behavior flowing out of what I truly am inside. The only way to authentically change who I am is to radically pursue that outside of me, that is God. It is only in abandonment of self and pursuit of God, that I am radically transformed. Only when I allow God to truly change me will others will see that my words match my actions. Then my yes will be yes and my no will be no.