Matthew 5:37

“But let your communication be, Yea, yea;
Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State in Woodrow Wilson’s Cabinet, was interviewing a man who was seeking a diplomatic post in China. Bryan warned the applicant that it was necessary to qualify as a linguist. “Can you speak the Chinese language?” he asked.

The man was equal to the occasion. Looking Bryan squarely in the eye, he replied, “Try me. Ask me something in Chinese.”

It is not unusual for a person who has made a reasonable request, to be given an evasive answer in response. If care is not taken, if human nature is not understood, the moment can be explosive for rejection is difficult to receive, and the tongue can set the world on fire.

Sometimes, when a reasonable request has been made, that is intrinsically good, it is rejected, and a reason is often offered. It is the “reason,” the “explanation,” for rejecting a request that can become the spark for a verbal explosion. 

The requestion is not being denied on merit, by a person in charge, but as a matter of preference and emphasis on another area.

It is better to simply say, “Yes,” or “No,” as Jesus counseled, than to give a “reason” that is questionable, unreasonable, or misleading.

If a person wants to do something, then it is usually done, if they can make the request happen.

Rather than simply say, “No,” (for whatever reason) an “explanation” is stated, and that is the point where the verbal battle can begin for if the “reason”, if not honest (I just do not want to do this), the temptation comes to logically argue for why something should be done.

The person with the reasonable request tries to persuade using logic, when the real issue is an emotional determination that the request is not going to be honored, no matter what is said.

We see this patten in the Garden of Eden. When God ask Adam why he ate of the forbidden fruit, Adam did not tell the truth. Adam did not confess and say, “I wanted to do what I wanted to do.” Rather, Adam gave another “reason.” He played the sympathy card. “Lord, I was afraid of You.” This was quickly followed by paying the victim. “I was naked, so I hid myself.” With this explanation, with these two reasons given for his rebellion, the spiritual battle was on between good and evil, right, and wrong, truth and falsehood.

If would be best if a person would just say, when presented with a request, “The answer is, ‘No!’” My reason? “I do not want to do this.” This honest response  is preferable in the sight of God, then insulting another person’s intelligence with a lame excuse.

Herein is a general principle, with universal application.

The value of the wisdom of Jesus, when implemented, is that it can stop an argument, before it starts. In simple language, be honest. “Just, say, ‘No!’” Or, just say, “Yes,” if your mind is made up.

An explanation can be offered for a “No: answer, if asked, but it should be prefaced with the truth, “My mind is made up. I just do not want this to happen.”

It is instructive that in the day of ultimate judgment, the Bible says that every mouth will be stopped from giving a false reason for rebelling against God, and, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11, NKJV). Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and I demand others tell the truth as well.”

Once, when a stubborn disputer seemed unconvinced, Abraham Lincoln said, “Well, let’s see how many legs has a cow?”

“Four, of course,” came the reply disgustedly.

“That’s right,” agreed Lincoln. “Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?”

“Why, five, of course,” was the confident reply.

“Now, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Lincoln. “Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

We live in a time when people routinely lie to one another, as a nation, on important issues. Using wrong pronouns and incorrect terms for a person’s sex, pretending babies are not killed, or that abortionist are different from the doctors of death in Nazi Germany, are just some of the ways truth is avoided.

Sincere Christians should start being as honest in time, as they will be in eternity.

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