“Let what you say be simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ [Let your yes be yes and your no be no]; anything more than this comes from evil [or from the evil one]” (Matthew 5:37)
If we could follow this simple rule from Jesus, we would rapidly develop reputations as honest, reliable, and trustworthy people. If every time we said “yes” it meant yes, and if every time we said “no” it meant no, people would understand us and would rely on our words. If we never said “yes” or “no” unless we knew that was what we meant—if we remained determined to hold to our answer and our promise—then no one would need to place us under oath. They would trust every word we said.
Why are our answers unsteady and unreliable? Sometimes we are afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.” We risk a “yes” or a “no” even though we don’t know the answer or aren’t completely convinced. Sometimes we say things we wish were true, even though they are not true. Sometimes we say things we know other people want to hear, even if they are not true.
Because we live in a sinful world, we can imagine situations in which a lie is more ethical than the truth. In extreme cases, telling a lie might save a life. In more everyday cases, telling a lie might keep another person from feeling sad. The Bible does not say “Do not lie” with the same severity as when it says “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery.” Still the witness of Scripture favors honesty over deception. Scripture favors truth rather than falsehood. Jesus says, “I am the Truth.” He is the pattern we are meant to imitate. The devil, the evil one, Jesus identifies as the father of lies.
So we can be like Jesus, we want our words to be honest and reliable. We want to mean yes whenever we say “yes,” and we want to mean no whenever we say “no.” When the world tries to back us into lying, we prefer to stay silent as Jesus remained silent while he was accused. When we speak the truth, we want that truth to be helpful to others, not hurtful; we want to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) rather than using the truth as a weapon to harm others.
We do not live up to these standards. We often fail to speak “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” When we do not measure up to God’s standards, we still possess his blessings of love, mercy, and forgiveness. His love is true and dependable. When he promises to forgive us our sins, his “yes” always means yes. J.