Simply let your `Yes’ be `Yes,’ and your `No,’ `No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 NIV

The familiar phrase “my word is my bond” is understood to mean that if I say I am going to do something, then believe it, I will do it. Jesus is teaching His disciples here in Matthew 5:37 a similar idea. Perhaps in Jesus day, as in our day and time, people often thought that in order to make someone believe one when one said he or she would do something, that one had to swear by something “sacred” to make one’s word believed. Jesus’ brother James said something similar:

“Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned,” James 5:12 NIV

My NIV study bible has a text note on this particular verse that I think clarifies what James and Jesus were getting at in these statements about letting our yes be yes and our no be no.

James’s words are very close to Christ’s (Matthew 5:33-37). James is not condemning the taking of solemn oaths, such as God’s before Abraham (Hebrews 6:13) or Jesus’ before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:63-64) or Paul’s (Romans 9:1) or a man’s before the Lord (Exodus 22:11). Rather, he is condemning the flippant use of God’s name or a sacred object to guarantee the truth of what is spoken.” NIV Study Bible (Text note on James 5:12 copyright 1985.)

I believe a principle is being taught here:

Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth. Proverbs 16:13 NIV

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD. Zechariah 8:16-17 NIV

Instead of embellishing our words or swearing by something considered sacred, Jesus implores us to be honest people. Jesus calls us to be known by our word, by our actions, as believable, trustworthy and faithful people. Of course, this is not what the evil one desires. So consider: Is my word good enough? Are my actions in line with my words? As you pray the Lord’s Prayer, think about your words, actions and God’s desire for us to live trustworthy honest lives before God and men.

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