Mark Fairweather Tall
Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No','No'
Back in 1988 Michael Dukakis described the US presidential race as a “marathon, not a sprint”. This being the case, I wonder whether Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, is expecting the vote to take place during in October rather than on November 6th? After all, he seems to be unaware of how long it takes to run a marathon. In an interview he was asked about his personal best for running a marathon. His reply: “Under three, I think, you know, high twos… a two hour and fifty-something.” Such a time is very impressive as the interviewer indicated and Ryan replied, “I was fast when I was younger, yeah.” However, Runner’s World magazine looked into this and discovered he ran 4:01:25 – quite a difference.
Was it simply a case of a bad memory? Or a little bit of over elaboration, exaggerating to make himself sound more impressive (although running a marathon in the first place is an achievement in itself)? And does it matter, anyway? After all, who amongst us has never embellished a story for one reason or another? Of course, the problem comes when you are found out – at best you look a little foolish but it can cause people to doubt your integrity.
And it is easy to be cynical within our society as all too often we hear about people who are less than honest. Our newspapers are full of stories of those who have been involved in financial irregularities; there are exclusives revealing celebrities who have been found ‘cheating’ on their partner. Football is always in the news and from time to time the issue of diving for a penalty hits the headlines. Honesty may be something we value but we are surrounded by examples of stories where people are not.
Whilst we may lament this, it is also a challenge to us because of the words of Jesus who said in the Sermon on the Mount, “simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’, ‘No’. In other words: Be honest; be people of integrity. We may nod our agreement, but it is one of those things that is easier said than done: We can easily get caught up bending the truth to make it sound better than the reality. We live amongst people who are often happy to add a few miles when expenses are claimed, so why shouldn’t we? After all, who will know? The chances of being found out may seem small and we may justify it by persuading ourselves that it will have little effect on others. Jesus, though, calls us to a higher ethic – simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’, ‘no’ – be honest in small things as well as the big.
This week I had cause to look up names of people on a list entitled: “Norfolk Trusted Traders”. The fence at our house needs repairing and not knowing anyone personally, I went to a list where I am told I can trust the people on it. There are too many stories around of people employing someone to do work and being let down by them. I want to know that I can trust someone to do the work and I am much happier choosing them from this list than just at random. It made me think – wouldn’t it be good to know that there are people you can trust to be honest in all things – a ‘trusted person in all things’ list? And wouldn’t it be good if that list was made up of the names of every believer in every church –all people you can trust both in word and action. That is how it should be, of course, because it is how Jesus says we should be. But we are all human and we all find it difficult to be completely honest in every aspect of our lives. However, that is no reason to duck the challenge. Rather, we should meet it head on, reflecting on our words and deeds and challenging ourselves to do better in small things as well as big.