Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 NKJV
Keeping your word with a simple “yes” or “no” should be enough. In the old days, honorable people made agreements with this simple affirmation and a handshake. Personal honor and integrity are important. You will be known by how well you keep your word.
And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong. Matthew 5:33-37 The Message
Back in the Old Testament, patriarch of the faith, Abraham, and his wife Sarah, laid down a smokescreen half-truth early in their travels when they came to the land of Egypt and it cost them dearly in the long run.
And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “This is his wife’, and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” Genesis 12:11-13
And he was partly right. Sarah was escorted into Pharoah’s house, but Abraham, masquerading as Sarah’s brother, instead of being killed, was given gifts and treated very well. What they didn’t expect, though, was that God judged Pharoah for taking Abrahams wife. So Pharoah called to Abraham, “why have you done this to me? Why have you brought this upon us? Get out of here!”
Pharoah gave them a valuable bounty to avoid God’s judgment, and booted them out of town! The crazy thing is, a short time later, Abraham and Sarah did it again, this time telling a half-truth to King Abimelech.
Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” Genesis 20:2-3 NKJV
Abraham and Sarah used the same half-truth twice, and each time, they were soundly rebuked but walked away more prosperous than when they arrived.
Does that mean that God overlooks half-truths? Does it mean that he give His prophets a break and holds them to a different, easier standard than the rest of us?
Of course, the answer is no, God didn’t look the other way. And while Abraham did become very rich, the father of a great nation, and the father of the faith, he still paid for his sin. There is an interesting verse in Pauls first letter to Timothy which says:
Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. 1 Timothy 5:24 NKJV
Some people’s sins trail behind them, that’s exactly what happened to Abraham’s family – think about the chain of events in Abrahams Family Tree.
- It begins here with Abraham and Sarah telling half-truths, revealing his fear of man, and lack of trust in God to keep His promise of making him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3).
- After their son, Isaac had grown up and married Rebecca, the two of them told the same lie to Abimelech that his parents had told (Genesis 26). And it didn’t end there!
- Isaac’s son Jacob, the next generation, deceived his own father into thinking he was his brother Esau in order to receive his father’s blessing (Genesis 27).
- Jacob’s deception was magnified through his whole family as his sons deceived their father into thinking that Joseph was dead and that a wild animal had killed him saying, “We found this coat, and gee, it sure looks a lot like the one you gave Joseph”, and of course, it wiped Jacob out.
Four generations of lies culminating here with children lying to their father about the death of their brother. And if you follow the lives of those twelve men, you’ll see the same pattern is several of their lives. It’s tragic. Was it avoidable? Yes.
If Abraham and Sarah, who told a little white lie to protect their own skin, would have repented and warned their descendants not to follow their example, the sin would have been judged right there and the chain would have never started.
Words. The things we say. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Don’t embellish, don’t tell half-truths.
…death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21 NKJV
The idle things we say will not be overlooked by our Lord. So important are the words we speak that Jesus says we are accountable for every one of them.
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
Idle words. When your car is running at an idle it’s not going anywhere. It’s the same with idle speech, it’s talking that isn’t going anywhere, just words that fill space, words that don’t commit, words that don’t empower, words that don’t reveal the truth. Those flowery, meaningless things we say just to sound important, or sacrificial, or sincere, or whatever – they’ll all be judged.
So what are my intentions? Are my intentions selfish? Am I trying to get attention, accolades? Am I saying something because I know it is what people want to hear, all the while knowing I don’t really mean it?
A weatherproof life is one that is beyond reproach in speech, one that rejects any hint of lying or deception, and one who, out of honor, keeps his word simple and true.
The Lord hates liars, but is pleased with those who keep their word. Proverbs 12:22 GNT