Does Your “Yes” Really Mean Yes?
TWO mature widows of meager means on Long Island, New York, were looking forward to a pleasant meal with a small group that was to include a long-time friend. In fact, he was to be their special guest. The gentleman had said “Yes” to the invitation, and so the women happily busied themselves preparing wholesome food, particularly in anticipation of his presence. But the man did not come. Years have passed since then, and the women bear the gentleman no ill will. Yet, they still recall that painful disappointment.
This true-life experience may be reminiscent of a time when you were disappointed by the failure of an invited guest to join you for a meal. On the other hand, like most of us, perhaps you can remember an occasion when unforeseen circumstances made it impossible for you to keep an engagement. At such a time, someone might well have wondered, Does your “Yes” really mean Yes?
An Underlying Principle
Naturally, there are promises much more significant than keeping one’s word as an invited guest. But the underlying principle is the same whether the promise concerns a matter large or small. What is that principle?
Well, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said: “Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.” Jesus was counseling against the custom some then had of lightly and indiscriminately making oaths. (Matt. 5:33-37) Certainly, a person does not need to back up every statement with an oath. He should simply keep his word. That is, his “Yes” should really mean Yes.
Of course, it is not always easy to keep one’s word. Sometimes changed circumstances prevent this. Nevertheless, the Scriptures say that a practicer of righteousness having Jehovah God’s favor “has sworn to what is bad for himself, and yet he does not alter.” (Ps. 15:1, 2, 4) Yes, he may have solemnly agreed to something that turned out to be apparently against his personal interests. But he remained true to his agreement.
Jehovah God himself is the greatest Keeper of Promises, thus setting a superb example for those desiring his favor. Accordingly, the God-fearing man Joshua could write: “Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.”—Josh. 21:45.
So, then, what principle underlies the words of Jesus, those of the psalmist and the statement by Joshua? Just this: A person should strive to keep his word. Indeed, one’s “Yes” should really mean Yes, unless he has broken off his engagement.—Prov. 6:1-5.
While the foregoing principle certainly applies to weighty agreements, consider again the relatively simple matter of accepting an invitation to dine with someone. Usually, a person is invited to another’s home for a meal because of friendship. For that reason, the host or hostess gladly spends time and money to obtain and prepare food, as did the poor widows mentioned earlier. What friend would want to treat such things lightly by accepting an invitation to a meal and then failing to be present for little or no cause? Surely, true friendship alone would be compelling reason to keep the appointment. Moreover, reflection on the host’s expenditure of time and money would furnish another reason to do so.
Truthfulness is yet another compelling reason to keep one’s word by not treating an accepted invitation lightly and thereby disappointing a host or hostess. Fittingly, the psalmist David said of God: “Look! You have taken delight in truthfulness itself in the inward parts.”—Ps. 51:6.
But what if a person accepts an invitation to a meal in a humble home and later is invited to a banquet in a mansion on that same evening? If he goes to eat with the rich and the one of little means learns of this, how will the poorer individual feel? Doubtless quite hurt and disappointed. So, the very desire not to cause such pain furnishes another compelling reason to honor the first invitation, letting one’s “Yes” really mean Yes.
Interestingly, when Jesus Christ sent some of his followers out to aid others spiritually, he said: “Wherever you enter into a house say first, ‘May this house have peace.’ And if a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will turn back to you. So stay in that house, eating and drinking the things they provide, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Do not be transferring from house to house.”—Luke 10:1, 2, 5-7.
Jesus’ disciples were to stay at a house until their mission in that town or city had been accomplished. His followers were not to transfer from one home to another because a certain householder possessed more goods or could offer the disciples greater comfort and entertainment than some other person.
The very recollection of these instructions to Jesus’ followers could well affect a person’s decision when he agrees to eat a meal at a humble home and later receives a more appealing invitation to enjoy a banquet elsewhere at precisely the same time. Unselfishness and honesty undoubtedly would move the individual to honor the original engagement.
In doing this, the guest is very likely to have a most enjoyable time at the humble home. Why, the warm, informal atmosphere there may be much more upbuilding than that at a great banquet! We are told in Scripture: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.”—Prov. 15:17.
Surely, fairness and consideration of others will move a good-hearted person to keep his promises. This is the course of truthfulness, something rightly expected of godly individuals. (Eph. 4:25) And the keeping of one’s word should extend even to honoring invitations accepted to enjoy fellowship with good friends. Certainly, this is one way you, too, can prove that your “Yes” really means Yes.