Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 The Message (MSG)
[Jesus continued,] “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Well, I’ve banged out my midterm. It’s not due until Friday at 11:59:59, so I’m considering getting a second set of eyes on it before I hand it in (such luxury!). And I still need to read four textbook chapters and a 200-page book for tomorrow.
But the synchronicity of both these passages crossing my desk interests me.
I wrote my essay on the latter; I chose the passage in part because I frequently feel as if I’m the only sane ‘No’ person in a mob of ‘Yes! What did I just say yes to?!’ people. Not my core; y’all are good about being thoughtful in your commitments. But working with as many volunteers as I have over as many years as I have, there’s a daft amount of commit-then-bitch in this world. I can’t fathom why it’s the norm, and my approach is the odd one.
One of the things I discovered as I wrote, though, is that the passage can also be about dragging God into what’s not really God’s. After all, what is “As God is my witness!” about if not linking God’s authority to one’s particular human initiative? God is gracious, infinitely flexible, and not bounded by our limitations, but even still…
is this the kind of piddly trash we want to call God’s attention to? “If I make a mint on this wheat transaction, I swear I’ll give 20% to the temple!” -??
Better, I think, to keep our promises amongst ourselves. We’re the ones with the means to fulfill them, after all.
Let God focus on giving God’s promises. They’re much bigger, brighter, and more interesting than ours, anyway!