I really try hard to follow through on what I say. I think this comes from the fact that there was someone close to me who would make a lot of promises and often would forget them. It was sometimes very disappointing and painful when that would happen and I learned to not trust that person and for a long time I was even skeptical of other's promises. I've caught myself doing the same years ago, and I didn't want to cause pain or disappointment, so now I say yes to things only if I know I can do it. If I am not sure it is something I can do, I will admit it and say something like, "I'm not sure if I can, but I will try." Don't get me wrong, I say yes to a lot of requests; however, I do actually make sure that it is something I can and will follow through on. I want people to trust me and know that when I say yes I mean it. With all that said, I still have to admit that there are times that I realize that I am not following through on what I said. In those moments, I am reminded of the fact that good intentions are only good if we actually act on them. Jesus tells us that it is important that our word is something that people can trust. In fact He tells us that we shouldn't need to make a vow or an oath at all; please read Matthew 5:33-37.
Jesus was telling us that the need for an oath stems from unreliability. We wouldn't need to make oaths if our yes and no really meant yes or no. It is interesting how Jesus points out that we really do not hold any rights to the things that we try to swear on. All of it belongs to God and we really don't have any ownership to swear by anything. That is truly something to think about, isn't it? So, in a sense we are claiming ownership when we are swearing by something and forgetting that everything belongs to God. Thinking about it that way allows us to see that swearing an oath by something is from the enemy. When we make a promise, there is no need to make an oath - just follow through.
Something that I have learned is that it is okay to say no. For example, if someone at church is asking you to organize an event that you really have no time to do because you are already involved in a few other ministries, it really is okay to say no. Even if it seems no one else is willing to step up and do it, we still need to consider if we can really get the job done and do it well. It is far worse for someone to depend on us only to be disappointed because we have to step away from the job half finished. Once again, the good intention of helping is only good if we follow through on helping. This is not an excuse for ambiguity, because that is not what Jesus was teaching. We also need to consider if we are saying no because that is what is best or if we are saying no because we just don't feel like doing something. The bottom line - if we say yes than we have to follow through. James reminded us of this in James 5:12 (NLT), "But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned."
Does your yes mean yes?
This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays and Soli Deo Gloria.