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Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

I recently ran into an old friend; we hadn’t seen each other for years. ‘Let’s catch up over a coffee’ she blurted to me enthusiastically. And I agreed wholeheartedly that that would be wonderful. And then we parted, going our separate ways. Did she intend to carry through on her invitation? Probably not. And my desire to ‘catch up’ was most likely about being ‘caught up’ in the moment. We have all done the same: said one thing, but hardly meant it. If we are honest, there is a nagging feeling inside that our good intentions are not really good enough.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul was accused by the church in Corinth of not being earnest in his plans to visit them. His response gives us insight into how we ought to make plans.

2 Corinthians 1:17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time?

Let’s consider the context of this comment first. In order to give the Corinthians time to repent in response to a sorrowful letter that Paul had previously sent the church, Paul had revised his earlier plan to visit the church in Corinth before traveling to Macedonia. Consequently, some were charging Paul with changing his plans on a whim rather than following through on his commitment to visit them.

Paul defends his decision by stating that he did not make plans ‘according to the flesh’. This statement resonates deeply with me, for I believe that is often how we make plans. We say ‘yes’ with our mouth, but are thinking ‘no’ in our hearts. We have divided hearts (Hosea 10:2). Instead as Jesus our LORD exhorts us,

Matthew 5:37‘But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Sobering words. If our yes could mean no, or our no could mean yes, then that is an evil practice in God’s sight. And Paul believed that his words and actions were not evil but honoring towards God. His opponents were discrediting the apostle by charging that his changed plans showed weakness of character and lack of integrity. However, as we know in hindsight, they were unaware of Paul’s pastoral motive to allow the congregation time for repentance, behind the revision of his travel plans.

1 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.

Paul calls upon God’s faithfulness as the pattern and guarantee for his own faithfulness. The absolute truthfulness and reliability of God’s words in Christ are the standard that Paul follows in his own speech. As Paul depends upon the Holy Spirit to lead him in his actions, he is confident that what he says is what God will allow him to do. It will be a ‘Yes’. Paul’s plans and actions are not determined by his own flesh and feelings, but by the guidance and provision of the LORD.

Oh how we fail in this area! Rather than listen for and trust the leading of the LORD, we race about making promises in our flesh that we fail to keep. Our behavior shows that we are unpredictable, lack integrity and cannot be relied upon. All such behavior is evil and thus dishonoring to the One we so quickly claim to declare allegiance to. If we cannot make plans confidentially assured that God has led us, we would do best to not make plans at all. Only when we say what we truly mean and mean what we say will God be glorified. Otherwise it is best to say nothing at all.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Heavenly LORD, I am so weak in this area. I say what I never intend to carry out, bringing hurt and offense to others, which is truly displeasing to You. Forgive me for my failure to be genuine and sincere with both You and others. Help me to speak with honesty or rather, not speak at all. I need Your help for without You I will fail again. Thank You.’

About Jennifer Woodley

Jennifer is an Australian freelance writer who lives in a small rural town in sunny Queensland. She is passionate about encouraging others on their journey with Christ through writing and mentoring. Jennifer is a school chaplain, wife, mother of three adult sons and loving grandma of one adorable grandson. More of her writing can be found at www.inhisname6.com and www.faithwriters.com.

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  1. thanks jennifer

  2. Very thought provoking. Thank you.

  3. Excellent Jennifer,
    God Bless~

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