Does yes mean yes? (2 Corinthians 1:15-22)

When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.” (2 Corinthians 1:17–18, KJV)

One day while I pastored in Savannah, Georgia, I was driving a van full of our college students home from an outing. On the trip, one of the students gave me a challenge. She stated that we should do something for others, like a nursing home or something. I stated, “If I get something started, will you commit to organizing and overseeing it?” Her answer was, “Yes.” So, I called a person that I knew who was in charge of a ministry to those who could not go to a church building on Sunday morning and he set us up with an opportunity in a nursing home.

I was very encouraged on the first Sunday afternoon when we went to the nursing home to minister to the residents there. A large group from our congregation showed up to help, including the girl who had suggested the idea, and affirmed that she would be there to help and oversee the ministry. Well, that commitment from her lasted one week. The first Sunday was the only Sunday in which she participated.

We decided to keep the ministry going and for a short while, about a year, I had good participation from a group of others. However, I had to oversee the ministry, and eventually it became a ministry of one or two others and myself. I do not begrudge the others who joined in and then slowly faded away, for they did not make a decisive commitment to participate. However, the one who suggested the idea and only showed up that first week demonstrated the anthesis of that which Paul wrote in these few verses.

Paul had previously written to the church at Corinth where he indicated that he would visit them after passing through Macedonia and perhaps spend the winter with them (1 Cor 16:5-7). In the preceding verses (2 Cor 1:16), he explained that he had planned to visit on the way to Macedonia and again on the way back from there. However, there was a change of plans. So, he made it a point to correspond with the church regarding this. He explained that he did not make this plan using “lightness,” elaphria, referring to the lightness of mind, thoughtlessness (Thayer pg. 59). Paul is explaining that he did not plan his aforementioned itinerary in a haphazard or vacillating way. It is what he truly intended to do. He went on to say that there was a true reason for his change of plans. In 2 Corinthians 1:23-24, Paul gives them the reason. (We will cover those two verses later.)

The point is this. Believers are to let their yes be yes and no be no. Yes, there will be some times when providential circumstances and situations will necessitate a change. Yet, our intentions should always be to keep our word. Moreover, when changes occur, we should, like Paul, clarify things by corresponding with those to whom we made the commitment. To often in my time of ministry, I had people make a commitment only to renege on it. This should not be. In the case of the girl who said she would oversee the ministry in the nursing home, it would have been perfectly fine if she would have said that she could not make that commitment. It would have even been fine, after her first exposure to the ministry, to say that she really did not understand what it entailed and it just was not her thing. But to say yes and then just disappear with no correspondence puts others in a disadvantageous position. “let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation” (James 5:12, KJV).

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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