July 15, 2007 / Volume 11, Issue 28
Let Your 'Yes' Be 'Yes' And Your 'No,' 'No'

These words follow in the Lord's sermon after a few thoughts on swearing oaths. Having encouraged His audience not to swear at all, Jesus says, "But let your ‘Yes' be ‘Yes,' and your ‘No,' ‘No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37).

Oaths were not uncommon among the people of old. Beginning with the oath between Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 21), we see a regular occurrence verbal contracts being entered throughout the Old Testament. But in the time of Christ, the word of an oath did not hold the weight it did in times past. The taking and breaking of oaths was commonplace, as the scribes found ways to excuse oaths. Jesus condemned such a practice (Matthew 23:16-22). He also spoke against the exemption of one's God-given responsibility to care for their parents through taking an oath of Corban (Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:11).

Some have in the heat of the moment or excitement of the time made rash and stupid oaths, such as Jephthah (Judges 11:30-31) or Saul (1 Samuel 14:24). How dangerous an oath can be, both for those who make it, and for others who may be encompassed by it! If we have taken an oath to our own harm, it may be tempting to release ourselves; but God's word says we ought not change, but fulfill our word (Psalm 15:4).

In consideration of vows made to God, the proverb writer penned, "It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows." (Proverbs 20:25). The same writer said, "When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed — better not to vow than to vow and not to pay." (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).

The Lord's desire is that we not bind ourselves in oaths (Matthew 5:34), but simply be people of our word. "...Let your ‘Yes' be ‘Yes,' and your ‘No,' ‘No.'..." Put away the mixing of words and equivocation. Employ plainness of speech, whether in the affirmative or negative. There is no need for grandiose, ego stroking oaths – just keep your words simple, and keep your words.

James draws upon our Lord's statement here in his epistle, writing, "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes,' be ‘Yes,' and your ‘No,' ‘No,' lest you fall into judgment." (James 5:12). How serious a thing is it to have taken an oath, and to not fulfill it? It is evil, brings condemnation upon us, and makes us then an agent of the evil one.

Those who are in Christ should have no need for an oath, to swear that they will do this or that, or that what they have said here or there is true. If we conduct ourselves as people of integrity, then folks will know that our ‘Yes' means ‘Yes,' and our ‘No,' ‘No.'

Click here for this week's Answering The Atheist
When was heaven created? Matthew 25:34 says when the earth was created, but John 14:2 says sometime after the ascension of Jesus. Is there a contradiction?

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