If everyone kept their word, attorneys might go out of business.
A lawyer once told a client: “Let me give you my honest opinion.” The client responded, “No, no. I’m paying for professional advice.”
We’re more interested in how we can get out of something than the truth. Is it mere coincidence that immediately after Jesus said to “Let your ‘Yes’ by ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’,” he said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matthew 5:40)?
Before we unpack this saying that could send many attorneys packing for a permanent vacation from law, let’s see what some of my friends have to say. “If you say ‘Yes’ and your friend says ‘No,’ you should go your own way,” says Joshua, 9.
Think of how many bruises would be saved, both emotional and physical, if everyone applied Joshua’s rule. In some circumstances, it could save lives.
Mariel, 10, says we should first consider the motivation behind our answers: “Ask ‘What would Jesus do?’ to yourself. And always seek His kingdom first.”
Most of us want what’s best for us and our loved ones. That’s natural. But Jesus didn’t live by his natural life. He lived by His Father’s life. Even in his final, agonizing hours, he prayed for another way other than bearing our sins in his own body. Nevertheless, he submitted to his Father, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
By praying this prayer, Jesus applied what he had taught earlier, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
“You either do the right thing or the wrong thing, and there is no middle,” says Daron, 11. “Jesus wants us to walk the fine line and not straddle the middle.”
Isn’t this why lawyers do so well? If people wanted to do the right thing, attorneys could go fishing.
“If someone asked you to marry him, and you say ‘Yes,’ you have to mean ‘Yes,’” says Haley, 10.
We live in a culture when taking an oath before God and witnesses “until death do us part” doesn’t seem to have the same binding effect it had in former generations. Again, is it mere coincidence that Jesus taught about the binding nature of marriage immediately before the importance of keeping one’s word (Matthew 5:31-32)?
“Jesus said this because he wants us to mean what we say,” says Cecily, 10. “Some people say ‘Yes,’ but they really do not mean it. Or, some people say ‘No,’ but do the opposite of it.”
First-century Jews had an elaborate system of oaths, according to extra-biblical Hebrew writings. For example, swearing “by Jerusalem” was not binding, but swearing “toward Jerusalem” was binding. If oaths become clever ways to deceive by invoking Jerusalem, heaven, Earth or even God’s name, Jesus said, “Do not swear at all” (Matthew 5:34). In other words, forget oaths altogether. Just tell the truth.
While we might be tempted to ridicule oath taking among first-century Jews, are we any better today? Do we really consider our word binding, even if we haven’t signed a contract? Will we keep our word even though it may cost us something we hadn’t anticipated?
In 1883, “Semper Fidelis” became the official title of the musical march of the Marine Corps. Translated from the Latin, it means “Always Faithful.” Can Christians afford to adopt any less of a motto when saying “Yes” to someone as a representative of a God who has always been faithful? No!
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