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"Say 'Yes' when you mean 'Yes' and 'No' when you mean 'No.' Anything beyond that is from the evil one." —Matthew 5:37
I work in a large office and can't help but overhear many conversations daily. I must hear the following phrases at least ten times every business day: "To be honest with you...", "Honestly...", "To be perfectly honest...". Each time I hear these phrases, I wonder if the speaker is implying that he or she is normally dishonest, but their current sentence is going to be an honest one.
Jesus isn't kidding. Anything we say beyond our true and simple meaning "is from the evil one" (Mt 5:37). If anything beyond our basic meaning of "Yes" or "No" is from the devil, it follows that we should hardly talk at all! (see Eccl 5:1) We don't want to give Satan the opportunity of speaking through us. Look at St. Peter. He spoke without listening carefully to what Jesus was saying and the devil spoke through Him (Mt 16:23).
If we really mean "Yes," we must say "Yes" unambiguously, and likewise if we mean "No." The author of James says if we speak "in this way [we] will not incur condemnation" (Jas 5:12). The implication is that if we don't really say what we mean, we might risk eternal condemnation. Jesus says: "I assure you, on judgment day people will be held accountable for every unguarded word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Mt 12:36-37).
Prayer: "Lord, set a watch before my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips" (Ps 141:3). Teach me "what to say and how to speak" (Jn 12:49). May I be quick to hear and slow to speak (Jas 1:19).
Promise: "I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even in the night my heart exhorts me." —Ps 16:7
Praise: When George and Mary said "Yes" to God and each other they meant it, and were blessed with over fifty years of holy marriage.
Reference: (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, December 12, 2005
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