BE, 'YES, YES' OR 'NO, NO':
esto (3SPAM) de o logos umon nai nai, ou ou
(2Corinthians 1:17, 18, 19, 20; Colossians 4:6; James 5:12)
Refer also William Barclay's comments
at the end of the previous verse.
See F B Meyer's related
Simplicity in Speech
is a command calling for this to be the believer's lifestyle.
Jesus is saying in essence that
all our speech should continually be as if we were under an oath to tell the truth.
When he wishes to affirm something let him then simply say, “Yes”;
and when he desires to deny something let him simply say, “No.”
Anything “stronger” than that is from the evil one, Satan himself (see
summarizes what Jesus is saying - Let your character, your
reputation for honesty, your word be so obviously true and undefiled and
without duplicity, that no man would think it necessary to put you under
an oath because he suspects you are of deception.... Some words can have
a double meaning, and some words can be interpreted in two different
ways. But there is only one possible way of interpreting yes.
Yes does not mean no. There is only one way you can interpret no.
You can never interpret that as meaning consent. When you say yes,
it means yes; when you say no, it means no. The Lord
demanded that one's speech be so trustworthy that men would not have to
debate what was meant and interpret what was said. They would know what
was meant because he was an honest man.' (Pentecost,
J. D. Design for living: Lessons in Holiness from the Sermon on the
Mount. Kregel Publications)
The Believer's Study Bible has
a good summary note - "Complete honesty should be typical of
the kingdom citizen, so that no oath is necessary to guarantee
trustworthiness for one's "yes" or "no." The law regarding oaths was
based upon the third Commandment. False testimony resulted in severe
consequences, since it consisted of taking God's name in vain (Ex. 20:7;
Lev. 19:11, 12; Num. 30:2; Deut. 19:16-20). The rabbis taught that oaths
which omitted God's name could be broken and were not binding. Jesus
maintains that God is involved in heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and all
things. Hence, all oaths are binding, and any attempt to avoid an oath
while pretending to keep it profanes the divine name. The reference is
neither to taking oaths in court nor to profanity. (Believer's
Study Bible. Thomas Nelson)
ANYTHING BEYOND THESE IS OF
to de perisson touton ek tou ponerou estin (3SPAI)
(Mt 13:19; 15:19; John 8:44; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9; James 5:12)
David gives us an excellent prayer to
pray so that we might avoid anything
beyond yes and no...
Set a guard, 0 LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3)
comment - Set a watch, O
LORD, before my mouth. That mouth had been used in prayer, it would be a
pity it should ever be defiled with untruth, or pride, or wrath; yet so
it will become unless carefully watched, for these intruders are ever
lurking about the door. David feels that with all his own watchfulness
he may be surprised into sin, and so he begs the Lord himself to keep
him. When Jehovah sets the watch the city is well guarded: when the Lord
becomes the guard of our mouth the whole man is well garrisoned. Keep
the door of my lips. God has made our lips the door of the mouth, but we
cannot keep that door of ourselves, therefore do we entreat the Lord to
take the rule of it. O that the Lord would both open and shut our lips,
for we can do neither the one nor the other aright if left to ourselves.
In times of persecution by ungodly men we are peculiarly liable to speak
hastily, or evasively, and therefore we should be specially anxious to
be preserved in that direction from every form of sin. How condescending
is the Lord! We
are ennobled by being door keepers for him, and yet he deigns to be a door
keeper for us.)
The phrase "of evil" is
rendered "of the evil one" in some of the translations (NIV,
NKJV, NET). The NET Bible adds that...
The term ("evil") may be
understood as specific and personified, referring to the devil, or
possibly as a general reference to evil. It is most likely personified,
however, since it is articular (i.e, it has a definite article "the"
It therefore seems very reasonable to
translate and interpret this as a reference to the devil who is the
master deceiver and whose pattern of guileful, manipulative speech is to
be scrupulously avoided by all citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In John we read that Jesus
declares to a group of unbelieving Jews that...
"You are of your father the
devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer
from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because
there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks
from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of
lies. (John 8:44)
James has a warning explaining
why it is better to simply speak the truth...
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; so that (here's the reason one
should simply speak the truth without oaths) you may not fall under
judgment. (James 5:12)
James is not forbidding the
taking of a solemn oath per se (see discussion below). Jesus and James
are stressing the need for integrity in speech, and the sinfulness of
carelessly or flippantly using God's name or a sacred object to
guarantee truthful speech.
Let's be honest. We all find it
difficult to be truthful. George MacDonald put it this way...
I always try—I think I do—to be
truthful. All the same I tell a great many petty lies, e.g. things that
mean one thing to myself though another to other people. But I do not
think lightly of it. Where I am more often wrong is in tacitly
pretending I hear things which I do not, especially jokes and good
stories, the point of which I always miss; but, seeing every one laugh,
I laugh too, for the sake of not looking a fool. My respect for the
world’s opinion is my greatest stumbling-block, I fear. (G Macdonald,
Reminiscences of a Specialist)
Paul made a statement that is in
the form of an oath in Romans when he declared that...
God, Whom I serve in my spirit
in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how
unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request,
if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to
you. (see notes
Paul's phrase "God...is my
Witness" is an appeal to God, and therefore is in the form of an oath,
probably because he was personally unknown to the Roman saints and they
to him. They might doubt his affection to them, a case which was only
known to God and himself, and hence his appeal to God for the truth of
J Vernon McGee quips that...
When a man says to me, “I’d
swear on a stack of Bibles a mile high,” that is the fellow I do not
believe because I think the lie he’s telling is a mile high. (McGee,
J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
from pónos =
labor, sorrow, pain) refers to evil in active opposition to good. It
refers to that which is actively harmful. The idea is one who is
pernicious, which means highly injurious or destructive, exceedingly
harmful, and vicious.
suggested the top ten lies
told in America:
10) Your table will be ready in a
minute. 9) One size fits all. 8) This will hurt me more than it hurts you.
7) I’m sorry I’m late; I got stuck in traffic. 6) The check is in the
mail. 5) This offer is limited to the first 50 callers. 4) It’s not the
money; it’s the principle of the thing. 3) I need just five minutes of
your time. 2) I’ll start my diet tomorrow. 1) I’m from the IRS and I’m
here to help you. Our culture doesn’t place much value on integrity, but
Scripture does. (Morgan,
R. J. Nelson's Annual Preacher's Sourcebook : 2004 Edition Page 132.
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers)
What would others say about your
Are you a person of your word? Is it "as good as gold"?
If you say you will do something do
you follow through?
Is your word perfect as your
heavenly Father's word is perfect?
Do you exaggerate or embellish? (If so what does that say about the
truthfulness of your word)?
Do you tell someone "I'll
pray for you" and then you
fail to follow through (only to be reminded of your promise by their phone
call "God answered.
Thanks so much for praying!"
And you say "Uh...Sure...you're
welcome", when you know you
did not really pray for them! Sin begets more sin.)
As Citizens of the Kingdom of
Heaven, who will one day give account for every word we have uttered, we
must choose to be men and women of integrity.
Why should kingdom citizens tell the
truth all the time? As Jesus taught elsewhere our words are a barometer of
the condition of our heart...
"You brood of vipers, how can you,
being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which
fills the heart. "The good man out of his good treasure brings forth
what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what
is evil. "And I say to you, that every (all, no exceptions!)
careless word that men shall speak (read that warning again -
careless is the Greek word argos from "a" = without + "ergon"
= work which literally means "not working, idle, ineffective"!) , they
shall render account (pay back, implying a debt = carries the idea
of obligation and responsibility for something, in this case "careless"
words!) for it in the day of judgment (beloved did you ever realize
that every word you ever speak is "headed for eternity so to speak"?!).
Kent Hughes has some poignant
thoughts on what proceeds our of our mouth - "The avoidance of one small fib...may be
a stronger confession of faith than a whole 'Christian philosophy'
championed in lengthy, forceful discussion." When people know that you do
not lie, your testimony will have more effect than all the theology you
could ram at them. What a difference a truthful life can make!
(Hughes, R. K.
Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the
Kingdom. Crossway Books)
Samuel Johnson had wise advise
for parents writing...
Accustom your children constantly to
this [the telling of the truth]; if a thing happened at one window, and
they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it
pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth
will end...It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional
lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world.
Matthew Henry has an excellent
comment summarizing the use of oaths writing that...
"The worse men are, the less they are
bound by oaths; the better they are, the less there is need for them. Our
Lord does not enjoin the precise terms wherein we are to affirm or deny,
but such a constant regard to truth as would render oaths unnecessary."
Today in the Word
has the following
devotional on Mt 5:33-37 and James 5:12 (see above)...
In the 18th century, when
commerce was developing very fast, merchants had no need for written
documents to complete a business deal. Big money transactions were made
just on the basis of the parties' 'word of honor' and a handshake. When
nowadays we listen to public figures toss words around, it becomes clear
that in the 1990s, words can mean whatever the speaker wants them to
mean. A simple 'yes' or 'no' is not enough. We need contracts signed in
the presence of lawyers, notarized documents, oaths in courts. And even
all this may not be a guarantee of complete truthfulness of words and
intent. People break contracts, renege on their agreements, and commit
Yes, the world has become more complex and our lives more hectic at the
end of the 20th century. We do things differently now. But there are
some principles of God's Kingdom that don't change for the followers of
Jesus no matter when they live. Can you imagine the apostle James
engaging in deliberate doublespeak to cloud his true intent? Neither can
we! This straight-talking spokesman for God had no tolerance for false
words of any kind, especially those that were cloaked in the guise of a
solemn oath... People in James' day had developed an elaborate
system of oath-taking to avoid invoking God's name, which would make the
pledge binding. They would swear by almost anything else to leave
themselves a hole through which they could wriggle and not keep their
word. The Bible does not disapprove of making oaths. God 'swore by
Himself' when He made His covenant with Abraham (Heb. 6:13). In a world
of liars, people are often asked to swear to the truthfulness of their
words. But the apostle's point, which echoed perfectly the teaching of
Jesus, was that for God's people a simple yes or no should do the job.
The intent behind our words should be so transparent we don't need to
call heaven and earth to witness that we're telling the truth. Keep it
simple, James says, or expect God's judgment. He doesn't tolerate liars.
Here's an exercise in truth-telling
that you can do with the family or a group of friends this weekend. Sit
down together and brainstorm a list of situations in which people are
asked to take vows or swear to the truthfulness of information (for
example, a wedding, a courtroom, applying for a license or other legal
document). Talk about the consequences a person might suffer for lying
in these cases, and then discuss God's demand for honesty on the part of
His people. (See another devotional from Today in the Word
on Matthew 5:33-37)
><> ><> ><>
Jawbone Credit - In 1878, a merchant in Bozeman, Montana, extended to Andrew Garcia what
was called "jawbone credit." Without putting anything into writing, he
gave Garcia $300 worth of supplies for a hunting and trapping
expedition. The trapper promised to return and pay his debt with hides
and pelts from his expedition.
While Garcia was away, hostile Indians moved into the area around
Bozeman. Weather conditions got bad. Fellow trappers told him to forget
about returning to Bozeman, but Garcia wouldn't hear of it. After a
series of harrowing experiences, he returned to the merchant with hides
and pelts to pay his debt. He kept his word.
We usually can't put that much stock in verbal promises these days. Many
people make pledges but fail to keep them. Every divorce means at least
one person has broken a sacred vow. People in trouble with the law may
promise to change their ways if only they can have another chance. But
when they receive clemency, they often forget the vows they had made.
God too makes vows, but He always keeps His word. If He didn't, we would
have no basis for hope. Let's thank Him for being a God of integrity and
resolve that we will be people whose word can be trusted. --H V Lugt
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
Integrity is what we gain
By walking in the light;
More valuable than precious gold,
It's built on truth and right. --DJD
People who trust God's Word
should be people who can be trusted.
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Be True To Your Word - Shortly before his death, the
Duke of Burgundy was presiding over the Cabinet Council of France. A
proposal was made that would violate an existing treaty but would secure
important advantages for the country. Many "good" reasons were offered
to justify this action. The Duke listened in silence. When all had
spoken, he closed the conference without giving approval. Placing his
hand on a copy of the original agreement, he said with firmness in his
voice, "Gentlemen, we have a treaty!"
It's a strong temptation these days to abandon our word in favor of
personal advantage or financial gain. As believers in Christ, however,
our responsibility is to remain true to our word so that our Lord is
So, when you give your word, keep it! "Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your
'No,' 'No'" (Mt. 5:37). If you make a commitment, honor it! If you take
on an obligation, fulfill it! Your honesty and reliability should be so
evident that you can be trusted for any contract you make. If
non-Christians can trust you in business matters, they will be more
likely to believe you when you speak about the gospel.
When we're tempted to break a promise, let's think again of these words:
"Gentlemen, we have a treaty!" --R W De Haan
Lord, by Your Spirit grant to me
A deep desire for honesty,
That when I simply give my word
No one will doubt what they have heard. --DJD
When you give your word, keep
Reverend Fred Holloman,
chaplain of the Kansas Senate had an interesting prayer before an
Omniscient Father: Help us to
know who is telling the truth. One side tells us one thing, and the
other just the opposite. And if neither side is telling the truth, we
would like to know that, too. And if each side is telling half the
truth, give us the wisdom to put the right halves together. In Jesus’