Let your Yes mean Yes, and your No mean No.

by Fr. Christian Mathis on December 5, 2013

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“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. ’But I say to you, do not swear at all;  not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your Yes mean Yes, and your No mean No. Anything more is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

Sometimes I think that we don’t take the sin of lying seriously enough. We convince ourselves that a little fib is ok here and there and that it really doesn’t do much harm. We tend to forget that one of the 10 Commandments is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”. It is too easy to narrow the parameters of this commandment so that things like little white lies are acceptable, instead of widening the parameters to include even the smallest deception. The temptation is always present to take each of the commandments and look for examples of when it might be acceptable to break them, rather than spending our time finding ways to follow them.

I think it is safe to say that being honest is at the top of the virtues, especially when it comes to ourselves. Most of us are pretty good at deceiving ourselves when it comes to our own spiritual health and our own sinfulness. This is why it is important to have a good confessor, spiritual director or friend who can help us see the truth about ourselves. Without an honest assessment of where we are on our Christian journey it is difficult, if not impossible, to progress very far towards the goal of holiness.

A lack of honesty with others, on the other hand, can lead to all kinds of mistrust which in turn leads to the destruction of relationships. Jesus challenges us to always tell the truth so that oaths are no longer necessary. The first sin committed in the Garden of Eden happened when Adam and Eve chose to believe the lie that God did not have their best interests at heart. Embracing that lie led to a broken relationship with God that has effected us all. From the very beginning the choice has been before us to follow God, who is the source of truth, or Satan, who is the father of lies. During this season of Advent, may we embrace honesty when it comes to ourselves and others, as we prepare to welcome our Savior when he comes.

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  • Dylan Jones

    This is a nice thing to read. Most of the current discussions that I’ve seen have been about politics (albeit there were some good reads), but I do think we have done a good job making the problem always about someone else and not the sinner within ourselves.

  • http://www.blessedisthekingdom.com Fr. Christian Mathis

    Yes. I was tempted to bring up politicians in this post, but then I remembered that lying isn’t limited to politicians. My goal is to try to do something about my own tendency to not always tell the truth, since that is really the only thing within my power to change.

  • Jennifer Meehan

    Thanks for this post, Fr. Christian. What a good meditation for this early part of Advent.

    I think the issue of dishonesty and lack of truthfulness is particularly harmful when the dishonest person is in a position of power… whether a parent or a pastor, a boss, a community leader, or a politician. In those cases, you have not just the sin of dishonesty and the concurrent mistrust in the relationship, but the opportunity for scandal…leading others into the same sin by belittling the importance of being honest and truthful in all things.

    May God bless you and your work in this holy season.

  • http://doatney.blogger.com/ David Oatney

    It is sad that most of us…and I must include myself…have at various points in life learned the consequences of dishonesty the hard way. One would think that after experiencing the negative consequences of dishonesty, people would be more prone to just tell the truth…the first thing human beings did, which led to more serious sin, was convince themselves of a lie (“You shall not surely die!”).

  • http://www.blessedisthekingdom.com Fr. Christian Mathis

    We lie to ourselves all too easily.

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