“Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.”
1. What did Jesus say about making oaths? Why?
USUALLY, it is not necessary for true Christians to make an oath, or to swear, as a guarantee that what they say is true. They obey what Jesus said: “Just let your word Yes mean Yes.” Our Master meant that a person should tell the truth and do what he says he will do. Jesus had just said: “Do not swear at all.” He said this because many people have a habit of making oaths without intending to do what they promised. What happens if a person swears to do something and then never does it? He may show that he cannot really be trusted and therefore is under the influence of “the wicked one.”
2. Why is it not always wrong to make oaths?
2 Jesus did not mean that it is wrong to make an oath. As we learned in the last article, Jehovah God and his righteous servant Abraham made oaths about important matters. Also, God’s Law required that a person make an oath in order to solve certain kinds of problems. (Exodus 22:10, 11; Numbers 5:21, 22) So it may be necessary for a Christian to swear to tell the truth when he has to speak in a court of law. Or there may be rare situations when a Christian feels it is necessary to swear that he intends to do something or to swear that he is telling the truth about a problem. Jesus spoke truthfully to the Jewish Sanhedrin when the high priest used an oath to insist that Jesus tell the truth. (Matthew 26:63, 64) Jesus did not need to swear that he was telling the truth because he always told the truth. But he would often say: “Most truly I say to you” or, “Truly, truly I say to you” to make it clear to others that they could trust what he was saying. (John 1:51; footnote; 13:16, 20, 21, 38) This article will show what else we can learn from the examples of Jesus, Paul, and others who said “Yes” and meant Yes.
JESUS LET HIS “YES” MEAN YES
3. What did Jesus promise in a prayer? How did his heavenly Father respond to Jesus’ prayer?
3 “I said, ‘Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:7) In this prayer, Jesus promised to do God’s will. That meant that he would do everything that was foretold about the promised Seed and even allow Satan to “bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) No other human has ever offered to take on such a big responsibility. Jehovah responded to this prayer and said that he completely trusted his Son, even though he did not ask Jesus to swear to keep his promise.
4. What was Jesus willing to do to make sure that his “Yes” meant Yes?
4 Jesus always let his “Yes” mean Yes. He never allowed anything to distract him from doing the work his Father had given him to do. He continued to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom and to make disciples of those whom God drew to Jesus. (John 6:44) The Bible confirms that Jesus kept his promise to do God’s will when it says: “No matter how many the promises of God are, they have become Yes by means of him [Jesus].” (2 Corinthians 1:20) Jesus is truly the best example of one who did exactly what he promised his Father. Next, we will discuss someone who worked hard to imitate Jesus.
PAUL LET HIS “YES” MEAN YES
5. Why is Paul a good example for us?
5 “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10) This is how Saul responded to the Lord Jesus when He appeared in a vision. He wanted Saul to stop persecuting Christians. As a result, Saul repented of what he was doing, got baptized, and accepted the special assignment to take the good news about Jesus to the nations. For the rest of his life on earth, Saul, who later became known as Paul, continued to call Jesus his “Lord” and obey him. (Acts 22:6-16; 2 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:8) Others who called Jesus their Lord did not let their “Yes” mean Yes. Jesus said of them: “Why, then, do you call me ‘Lord! Lord!’ but do not do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46) Jesus expects all who call him Lord to do what they say they will do, just as the apostle Paul did.
6, 7. (a) Why did Paul delay his visit to Corinth? Why was it wrong for some to say that he was not trustworthy? (b) What attitude should we have toward those who take the lead among us?
6 Paul zealously spread the Kingdom message throughout Asia Minor and into Europe. He established many congregations and then visited them again. Sometimes it was necessary for him to swear that something he wrote was true. (Galatians 1:20) Some in Corinth thought that Paul could not be trusted. Paul wanted them to know that he told the truth, so he said: “God can be relied upon that our speech addressed to you is not Yes and yet No.” (2 Corinthians 1:18) When he wrote that, Paul had left Ephesus and was traveling through Macedonia on his way to Corinth. Originally, he had planned to go back to Corinth before going into Macedonia. (2 Corinthians 1:15, 16) But sometimes there are reasons to change plans. For example, traveling overseers today may have to change the dates of their visits to congregations. They do not change their plans for unimportant, selfish reasons but because of an emergency. Paul had a good reason to delay his visit to Corinth. It was for the benefit of the congregation. How?
We should imitate Paul, just as he imitated Christ
7 When Paul was in Ephesus, he heard that the congregation in Corinth was having problems. The brothers were not united, and they were allowing someone in the congregation to live an immoral life. (1 Corinthians 1:11; 5:1) In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote strong counsel to help them solve their problems. Then, instead of sailing directly from Ephesus to Corinth, Paul decided to give the brothers time to apply his counsel before he arrived. As a result, his visit would be more encouraging. In his second letter, Paul wrote that this truly was the reason for changing his plans. He said: “I call upon God as a witness against my own soul that it is to spare you that I have not yet come to Corinth.” (2 Corinthians 1:23) We should never be like those who criticized Paul. Rather, we should have deep respect for those who are appointed to take the lead among us. Paul really did what he promised to do. We should imitate Paul, just as he imitated Christ.
OTHERS WHO LET THEIR “YES” MEAN YES
8. Why is Rebekah a good example for us?
8 “I am willing to go.” (Genesis 24:58) Rebekah said this when her mother and her brother asked if she was willing to become the wife of Abraham’s son Isaac. She would have to leave home that day and travel with a stranger over 800 kilometers (500 miles). (Genesis 24:50-58) Rebekah let her “Yes” mean Yes. She became a good wife to Isaac and faithfully served God. This meant that for the rest of her life, she had to live in tents as a foreigner in the Promised Land. God rewarded her because she faithfully did what she said she would do. One of her descendants was the promised Seed, Jesus Christ.
9. How did Ruth let her “No” mean No?
9 “No, but with you we shall return to your people.” (Ruth 1:10) The Moabite widows Ruth and Orpah kept saying this to their mother-in-law, Naomi. She was a widow returning from Moab to Bethlehem. Naomi kept begging them to go back to their homeland, and Orpah eventually did go back. But Ruth let her “No” mean No. (Read Ruth 1:16, 17.) She was loyal to Naomi and stayed with her, even though this meant that she would never see her family again and that she would have to give up the false religion of Moab. She worshipped Jehovah for the rest of her life, and he rewarded her. She was one of only five women whom the Bible writer Matthew mentioned in the list of ancestors of Christ.
10. Why was Isaiah a good example for us?
10 “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) Before saying this, Isaiah saw a glorious vision of Jehovah sitting on His throne above Israel’s temple. During this vision, Isaiah heard Jehovah say: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Jehovah was asking for someone to go and give His message to His disobedient people. When Isaiah said: “Here I am! Send me,” it was as if he was saying, “Yes, I will go and do the work you give me.” Isaiah let his “Yes” mean Yes. He did exactly what he said he would do. For more than 46 years, he prophesied that God would punish His disobedient people and that He would later bring them back to the place where He wanted them to worship Him.
11. (a) Why is it so important to let our “Yes” mean Yes? (b) What examples are there of some who did not let their “Yes” mean Yes?
11 Why did Jehovah want these examples to be included in the Bible? And how important is it to let our “Yes” mean Yes? The Bible clearly warns us that a person who is “false to agreements,” or who does not do what he promises to do, is “deserving of death.” (Romans 1:31, 32) Pharaoh of Egypt, King Zedekiah of Judah, and Ananias and Sapphira did not let their “Yes” mean Yes, and as a result, they all suffered. Their examples are a warning for us.
12. What will help us to let our “Yes” mean Yes?
12 Since we live “in the last days,” we are surrounded by people who are “disloyal,” people “having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) As much as possible, we must not associate with people like that. Instead, we should regularly associate with those who try always to let their “Yes” mean Yes.
YOUR MOST IMPORTANT “YES”
13. What is the most important “Yes” spoken by a follower of Jesus Christ?
13 The most important promise that a person can make is his dedication to God. Those who want to be disciples of Jesus are asked three separate times if they really want to do what is required of them. (Matthew 16:24) When two elders interview a person who would like to become an unbaptized publisher, they ask the person, “Do you really want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” Later, when the person has made more progress and wants to be baptized, the elders meet with him or her and ask, “Have you made your personal dedication to Jehovah in prayer?” Finally, on the day of baptism, the speaker asks those who will be baptized, “On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?” So in front of all those present at the baptism, these new ones say “Yes,” or promise to serve God forever.
14. What questions should we keep asking ourselves?
14 Whether you are newly baptized or have been serving God for many years, you need to keep asking yourself questions like these: ‘Do I imitate Jesus by continuing to let my “Yes” mean Yes and to keep my promise to Jehovah? Am I continuing to make preaching and the making of disciples the most important work in my life, as Jesus told us to do?’
15. In what ways is it important to let our “Yes” mean Yes?
15 To keep the promise we made to God at our dedication, we must also be truthful in other important matters. For example: If you are married, you should keep the special promise you made to love and cherish your marriage mate. If you have signed a business contract or filled out an application form to volunteer to work with the congregation or the organization, then you should do what you have promised. Maybe you have accepted an invitation to have a meal at a certain time at the home of someone who has very little. You should keep your promise even if you get another invitation that you think is better. If you promised to make a return visit on someone you met in the house-to-house ministry, you should let your “Yes” mean Yes. Jehovah will bless your ministry.
JESUS, OUR HIGH PRIEST AND KING, WILL HELP US
16. If we have not kept a certain promise, what should we do?
16 The Bible states that as imperfect humans, “we all stumble many times,” or make many mistakes, especially in what we say. (James 3:2) What should we do if we realize that we have not kept a promise? In God’s Law to Israel, it was possible for a person who spoke “thoughtlessly with his lips” to receive mercy. (Leviticus 5:4-7, 11) It is also possible for Christians to be forgiven if they fail to do what they say they will do. If we confess to Jehovah that we did not keep a certain promise, he will show us mercy and forgive us. We have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who will help us to have God’s favor again. (1 John 2:1, 2) But to remain in God’s favor, we must show that we really are repentant. For example, we must not make a habit of breaking our promises. And we should do whatever we can to solve any problems that we caused when we broke our promise. (Proverbs 6:2, 3) Of course, it is much better to think carefully before we make a promise that we may not be able to keep.
17, 18. What wonderful future will there be for all who work hard to let their “Yes” mean Yes?
17 There is a wonderful future for all worshippers of Jehovah who work hard to let their “Yes” mean Yes. The 144,000 anointed ones will have immortal life in heaven, where they will rule as kings with Jesus for the thousand years. (Revelation 20:6) There will be many millions more who will live in Paradise on earth. During the time when Christ rules as King of God’s Kingdom, they will be helped to have perfect health and perfect thinking.
18 At the end of Jesus’ rule, there will be a final test. Only those who are faithful during that test will be allowed to remain in the Paradise, where they will always be able to trust what others say. (Revelation 20:7-10) All then living will let their “Yes” mean Yes and their “No” mean No. They will perfectly imitate our loving heavenly Father, Jehovah, who is “the God of truth.”