Teachings of Jesus: Let Your Yes be Yes
The teachings of Jesus are amazing. Many of them are simple and all are more than noteworthy. One teaching that struck me growing up comes from Matthew 5: 33-37 which says:
5:33 Again, you have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not break an oath, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not take oaths at all – not by heaven, because it is the throne of God, 35 not by earth, because it is his footstool, and not by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not take an oath by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’ More than this is from the evil one. -NET
Jesus’ words hit me extremely hard when I became a believer, because of my fascination with lying. I would lie about the smallest things just to see if I could get away with it. To this day I still have those temptations. A white lie here just to make myself look better, or a white lie there to get me off the hook for a minor screw up. Sometimes, I even get the temptation to lie simply for the sake of lying. As I got older and more mature in Christ the temptations got less frequent but never the less I am still wrapped in flesh and sin is still a battle. These words are an important reminder for me in my struggle against lying. Not only that, it is a reminder to be a person that others can consistently trust.
In verse 33 Jesus makes reference to Numbers 30:2 which says:
If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath of binding obligation on himself, he must not break his word, but must do whatever he has promised.
These were the words of Moses and it was a call to stay true to the covenant that the people of Israel made with God. However, like many other teachings, Jesus takes the Old Testament law to another level when he says:
34 But I say to you, do not take oaths at all – not by heaven, because it is the throne of God, 35 not by earth, because it is his footstool, and not by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not take an oath by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that making oaths should be unnecessary for those that are going to follow him. Remember my admission of being a constant lier when I was younger? Well, even when I was telling the truth people, especially my mother, wouldn’t believe me. I had to swear on everything under the sun to prove my honesty. I would pinky swear, promise on my life, and even cross my heart but Jesus doesn’t want us to live this way. Instead Jesus says:
37 Let your word be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’ More than this is from the evil one.
If you say yes then you should mean yes. If you say no then you should mean no. This is a command from Christ that all of us should heed. Jesus then heightens his command with the sentence, “More than this is from the evil one.” As Christ followers we are held to a higher standard. This standard is difficult to uphold but we all should strive to take Christ’s words seriously and follow them. And when it comes to this teaching I need to hear it more often than most.
Thanks for reading.