Straight Talking – Yes or No is Enough

Yoti Body-Lawson Sermons Leave a Comment

In our ongoing sermon series “Did God Really Say?”, we dive into the fourth teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5. This week, our focus is on the power and simplicity of truth-telling as highlighted in Matthew 5:33-38.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But 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. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:33-38 (NIV)

Understanding Oaths: An oath is a solemn commitment to uphold one’s truthfulness or intentions, often invoking a divine witness. We may not hear people make oaths like in biblical times, but modern phrases such as “I swear on my life” or “I promise” echo this practice we still use today. These expressions often reveal a desperation to be believed or a need for us to authenticate our statements, with the world we live in more and more wary of lies or even half truths.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus transcends the cultural and legalistic practice of taking oaths. He calls His followers to a higher standard where their ‘Yes’ means yes and their ‘No’ means no, underscoring the futility of swearing by anything on earth, as all creation belongs to God, including every hair on our heads.

Throughout the first part of the Old Testament, God established the people of Israel with laws to set them apart from other nations. Among these laws were commandments about the Israelites respecting oaths, emphasizing the importance of truthfulness (Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2, Deuteronomy 23:21-23). However, by Jesus’ time, religious leaders had manipulated these laws, creating loopholes and partial truths to evade accountability. They swore by lesser things, like Jerusalem or the temple, to circumvent the gravity of breaking an oath made in God’s name.

Across the whole narrative of scripture however, God Himself took oaths to emphasize the certainty of His promises, oaths that he makes sure never to once break. Hebrews 6:13-18 reminds us that God, incapable of lying, used oaths to assure His people of His unwavering commitment. For instance, He swore by His own name to bless Abraham, reiterating His covenant and fulfilling every promise.

Therefore as disciples, and followers of Jesus, our integrity should mirror God’s. We’re called to be people of our word, letting our simple affirmations of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ stand unwavering, set apart as different from the world. Here’s why this matters:

1. We reflect God’s Character

  • God’s promises are unchanging because He is unfailing. Similarly, our truthfulness should be consistent as it reflects God’s nature.
  • Numbers 23:19 (ESV) states, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

2. Building Trust and Relationships:

  • Upholding our commitments builds trust in our relationships, whether in marriage, friendships, or work. It’s the bedrock of a functioning, healthy society.
  • Proverbs 10:9, “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”

3. Honoring Our Identity in Christ:

  • We’re a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV). Our identity as God’s children compels us to live with integrity, honoring His name through our actions.

If all this is true, then there’s some practical takeaways for us as a church family;

1. Say What You Mean:

  • Avoid using grandiose promises or oaths to convince others. Instead, let your straightforward ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ build your reputation for honesty.

2. Consistency in Small Things:

  • Be reliable in minor commitments. Consistency in small matters strengthens integrity in larger ones.

3. Remember God’s Faithfulness:

  • Reflect on God’s unfailing promises to us. This strengthens our resolve to be trustworthy in our own lives.

4. Truth Over Convenience:

  • Even when it’s inconvenient, uphold the truth. Avoid rationalizing dishonesty, as the spirit of integrity matters to God and impacts those around us.

In a world where the truth can too often be malleable, Jesus calls us to a standard of simplicity and honesty that echoes His divine nature. Our ‘Yes’ should be yes, and our ‘No’ should be no. By embodying this simplicity, we mirror the unwavering faithfulness of our God, creating trust, and highlighting the transformative power of integrity in our everyday lives.

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