Monday, 1 June 2015
Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? 2 Corinthians 1:17
In a round about way of explaining why he chose not to come to Corinth, as he originally planned and as he noted in the preceding verses, Paul asks rhetorically, “When I was planning this, did I do it lightly?” In other words, was he just saying, “I may come or I may not… it all depends on how I feel at the time.” Were his words vacillating and unsure?
The Greek translated as “lightly” is elaphria. It is only used this one time in the New Testament and it means “levity,” i.e. fickleness. It comes from another similar word which means light, as in not heavy or burdensome. And so, he is refuting the charges of those who claimed he was fickle or insincere in his dealings with them.
Continuing on he asks, “Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh…?” “According to the flesh” is probably referring to a person who easily makes promises and then easily reneges on those promises, showing that he lives in a carnal and self-centered manner. It could also have the second meaning of a person who is weak and unable to say what he really means out of fear of alienating others. Either way, his asking this as a question is intended to show that such is not the case.
And finishing up this verse, he asks whether they believe that with him “there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No.” In this is a portion of the teaching of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5, he said this –
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Matthew 5:33-37
This same sentiment is cited by James in his letter (5:12). It thus was by this time a commonly taught and understood precept. Paul was asking if they felt he was failing to adhere to the words of Jesus and speaking out of both sides of his mouth at once. The rhetorical nature of these questions shows that none of this was the case. He will defend his actions to show this is so.
It should be understood that each phrase in this verse carries a bit of ambiguity and can be viewed from different ways. It is as if Paul is purposefully using such ambiguous wording to cover any and all possibilities concerning accusations against him. In this the Pulpit Commentary says, “There is probably no clause in the New Testament of which the certain sense must be left so indeterminate as this.”
Life application: The Bible asks us to be trustworthy, even to the simple promises we make. When others hear our words, they should be willing to accept them at face value. In this, if we don’t follow through with them, we need to have a very good reason for it. We also have to be able to defend why we didn’t live up to the words we have uttered.
Lord, You have asked us to let our Yes be Yes and our No be No. We are to be so trustworthy that when we speak, people will accept our words at face value. Help me in this Lord! Give me the courage to speak only the truth and then the fortitude to follow up with the words I speak in a manner which will show that I am a person of integrity. Let others not see a fault in Christian honor when they see me. Instead, may my words bring honor to the Name I bear – Jesus! Amen.