“But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yes be yes; and your no, no; lest ye fall into condemnation.”
Several years ago I was involved in the development of a business with a young man. As it happens, in a telephone conversation one day, I could not decide whether the answer to his question was, yes or no. "Well, yes.” I said. “—I mean no! —Let's just say, maybe!" I continued, moving my answer back and forth within seconds. He paused for a short time, and said, "Did you know that the Bible says let your yes be yes, and your no, no?" The line was silent as he waited for an answer. "Yeah right! —You know you just made that up!" I said. "—I've never read that in the Bible!" "No,” He said. “It really does say that." Oh, really?" I said, a little sarcastically, "—Find it!"
Later that day he called me back, his smile easily coming through the phone. "—Found it, James 5:12." As I read the text, I began laughing, "You gotta be kidding!" I said. There was way too much glee coming from his side of the telephone. "See, I told ya!” He said, as he laughed out loud. “Now, which one is it, yes or no?"
The Bible speaks about integrity in many places; and to be certain, Jesus himself presented the concept in various parables so that we could fully understand what it means to value our words. As it happens, today’s passage is actually found in two places in the Bible. A friend once said to me after some level of my teasing him, "Many a truth is spoken in jest!" —And, the truth is, I notice you rarely say anything you don't really mean." Years later, I realized that I, like so many people, place an inherent value on the words people actually say; and, my expectations regarding what they will do comes directly from their very own words, whether they value them or not.
We all know someone who speaks flippantly and does not value his or her words, promises, or commitments. Sometimes, this behavior comes from disappointments in childhood where the adults in their midst did not honor their words; so, words lost their value. In other cases, it stems from the person trying to do so many things at once that, they fall short of their commitments, disavowing their own words. Either way, whether they know it or not, it defines their integrity.
If you say it, do it. If you really don’t want to do it, say "No." Honor what you believe, and maintain your integrity; because, in the end, it will be one of the few things that count. L.
Study Reference: James 5:12, Matthew 5:36-37
Excerpt from: "Is It Yes or No?" In The Master's Hands: 365 Daily Devotions For Everyday Living.
Copyright © 2014 by Lavona E. Campbell