Glenn Hohnberg (The Gospel Coalition website)
A real ‘yes’ could change your life. Jesus said, ‘But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.’ (Matthew 5:37) In the last year, I’ve been thinking how letting our yes be yes and our no be no could transform our lives.
Jesus is teaching that his peoples’ speech should match their intentions. He does not want Christians to make make crazy or stupid promises that we can’t keep or have no intention of keeping. If we say ‘Yes’ to a dinner date, a business meeting, a business deal or meeting a friend for coffee then that is exactly what we intend to do and nothing short of an extraordinary disaster will shake us from that yes. We said yes and yes it will be.
Imagine for a moment how it would transform our lives if our culture functioned like that. No more, ‘hey, still on for tomorrow morning?’ texts. Those infuriating but necessary triple checking texts to make sure someone will turn up. (Triple because you made the date, probably confirmed it with a calendar invite or confirmation text and now, at the last minute, you do it one more time). Weeks ago you gave your yes and so did they. And since they have not cancelled, there you both are, weeks later meeting at the agreed time and place. Oh, the bliss of it! Imagine also how it might change business deals if our yes was yes. How angry it would make the lawyers.
But that is just a minor transformation compared to what it would do for the rest of your life. if your yes was yes and then you would have to think about your priorities. Deeply. If yes or no now propels you into the future with serious intent, you must decide what matters to you. You must decide what you do want to do and what you don’t want to do. You will have to take a measure of control. I say a measure of control because we don’t ultimately control everything that happens to us or around us. And so, we always live with some but not ultimate control. Nonetheless, we can still decide on priorities and live them out.
It would also be an act of love, for friends, colleagues, spouses and people we know. For they would know they could depend on us. It would take us back to that supposedly outmoded age of ‘my word is my bond’.
This small act of clarity and love in our communication—and the courage to live it out—could be the small but powerful cornerstone that makes you think about your life, what matters to you, why it matters and what you spend your time on.
It is courageous. For it recognises that once you’ve said yes other offers might come along, better offers. But you will not let FOMO rule you (Fear Of Missing Out). Instead you will make your decisions and stick to them with the courage of your convictions and the courage to live out what matters to you. You will refuse to be constantly worried that something better will come along. You will refuse to be perpetually half hearted about what you are already part of. You’ll be able to give yourself wholeheartedly to people, and projects and things and you’ll love it.
There is something very powerful in deciding—from start to finish—that your yes is your yes and your no is your no. You think through your priorities. You make plans. You speak. You act on the plans with courage.
But Jesus is no mere life coach. The last sentence, ‘Anything more than this is from the evil one’ shows that Jesus thought a lot more was going on than just good practical advice. He thinks that we live before God. One sentence earlier he critiques the practice of making promises, sworn on religious grounds or others. He wants our speech to be our intentions. More than this, or less than this, are acts of evil and they play into the Devil’s hands.
Glenn Hohnberg is planting Risen Church on the southside of Brisbane to reach out to Griffith University and the surrounding city. Before that he started and led the City Bible Forum in Brisbane. He loves having four boys and being married to Kathryn.