There is an old acrostic that goes like this K.I.S.S. “Keep it short and simple.” Today’s passage, Matthew 5:37, is a K.I.S.S. passage, “Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (KJV). The NIV clarifies the meaning of Jesus’ words somewhat: “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” The context of this to the people of Jesus day has to do with oath-keeping but the application is much broader.
Matthew 5 is part of the Sermon on the Mount. In this section, Jesus addresses some of the underlying principles of certain Old Testament laws. There are some cases in which a person could obey the letter of the law but still be guilty of breaking the principle. The Pharisees and teachers were experts at keeping the letter of the law, but were guilty of breaking the law by their thoughts and attitudes. For instance, in Matthew 5:27–28, Jesus says it is not enough to be “technically” innocent of adultery because a lustful look destroys one’s purity of thought. The whole thought was aiming to please God in our actions and corresponding thoughts. Listen as one commentator explains:
"In Matthew 5:33–37, following the same pattern, Jesus addresses the subject of telling the truth. Jesus tells the crowd not to break their oaths. An oath was a promise to do or not do something, invoking God as witness and the One to bring judgment if the promise was broken. It was common for people to make oaths to emphasize their seriousness and truthfulness. Sometimes they would swear on something less than God, such as “heaven.” The point of the lesser oath was to allow some flexibility in breaking the oath—since God’s name had not been invoked, they reasoned, breaking the oath wasn’t that bad. In this case, the oath was being made by a person who was not afraid to break it, making the oath duplicitous. Instead of varying the “sincerity level” of oaths, Jesus says to simply say “Yes” or “No” and mean it. The invocation of God’s name is a mere technicality. Mouthing a meaningless oath does create loopholes for yourself. Your word should be your promise. Jesus says that, oath or no oath, simply say what you mean and stick by it.”
As much as possible, our word, as Christians, should be our guarantee. When we promise someone something, we need to take it seriously. Our word should be our word. I realize that sometimes life presents us with some unknowns and sometimes we get caught in situations that are beyond our control. But, as Believers, as much as possible, we should be known as people of integrity who try and keep our promises. We live in a day and age where half-truths prevail; sometimes it is hard to get an accurate answer. We need to remember Jesus words, “Let your yes be a yes and your no be a no.”
Sometimes, we will not be able to meet our commitments and people need to understand that. Sometimes, we will, innocently, mislead people and that also needs to be meet by grace. We are not perfect. We are works in progress. But, as much as possible, we simply need to let our yes be a yes and our no be a no. Thanks for being such integral people and letting your lights shine!
Have a great week
– Pastor Ralph
PLEASE NOTE: Our reflections will become weekly as of next week – every Wednesday.