Yes. Maybe not. Depends. We can answer a question in different ways. Sometimes an absolute, Yes or No is correct. At other times, a level of imprecision may be appropriate. While our answer may reveal more than a simple yes or no, context is just as important. For example, the context of a question like “Are you interested?” ” is important.
If I ask if you are interested in going out to eat, you might want to know what type of food. If a salesperson asks me this question while I’m walking through a parking lot, my yes or no may indicate the type of help I need. The vague answers indicate that I am weighing the options. When a friend wants to see a movie or go skydiving and I don’t, my imprecision can give me a chance. However, I would not be well to answer with the same vagueness to a marriage proposal!
Jesus cautions against vague answers because they usually come from an unclean motive. Jesus said, “Whether what you say is just ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; nothing more than that comes from wrong. (Matthew 5:37) Jesus just explained that some, because of their dishonesty, must back up their words with a vow. Oaths do not make a liar’s words more believable.
Call me cynical, but the salesman who repeatedly tells me how honest they are reminds me of Queen Gertrude’s comment in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “The lady protests too much, I think. Those who try too hard to convince us that they are telling the truth can lose their credibility. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. We must speak the truth and do what we promise.
Jesus illustrated this in a parable of a father asking his sons “to go and work in the vineyard today.” The first one said no, but later changed his mind and left. The second said yes, but didn’t work at all. Jesus asks religious leaders, “Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first one. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom of God before you do. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes believed it; but you, when you saw it, you didn’t even change your mind then and you didn’t believe it. (Matthew 21: 31-32)
They knew the correct answer. The son who refused at first but then obeyed his father was the real son. The purpose of the parable was to reveal how easy it is to know the truth and yet not live it. Jesus said that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the kingdom of God before religious leaders because although they were disobedient, they ultimately turned to God in faith. Even when these religious leaders saw how lives were changed as John preached on the path of righteousness, and even when they saw what happened when these sinful people repented and believed, they still didn’t believe Jean.
Jesus warns us to be careful of those who teach that to enter into a relationship with God, you must first pull yourself together. On the contrary, “God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5: 8) It doesn’t matter whether we are a tax collector, a prostitute, an enemy of God, or an arrogant hypocrite, all are invited to come.
Consider another verse: “As surely as God is faithful, my word to you does not oscillate between ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not hesitate between “Yes” and “No”. This is the one Silas, Timothy and I preached to you, and as the ultimate “Yes” of God, he always does as he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a “Yes!” And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1: 18-20)
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a “Yes!” Hope you can say Amen to it. When we say yes to him, we are promised that “the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 6: 23b) It is a free gift which is not earned by our righteousness but which was purchased for us by the righteousness of Christ. All are invited to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. (Psalm 34: 8a)
Eldon Peterson is the pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. Her column appears on the Faith page. He can be contacted at [email protected]