I wonder if you have ever seen something like this in your local supermarket. A mother and child are shopping together but the child is whining and demanding sweets, or maybe a coke or a toy. The mother says an emphatic “No” and continues with her shopping. However, the child disregards her negative response and continues over several minutes with the same request, increasing both the volume and the pitch of his voice on each occasion. The mother repeats her “No” until eventually, possibly out of embarrassment at the escalating noise level, or because she is feeling totally worn down, she says, “Oh, for goodness sake! All right then”. And she then gives in to her child’s demands. He gets his sweets, and she has the desired peace to continue to the checkout with her shopping. But I wonder, to myself, “What has this child learned from this experience?”
Firstly, he has learned that he can get what he wants if he persists with determination. Perhaps this can be considered a useful life lesson, as we know that if you want something enough you often need to be persistent in your pursuit of it. Indeed, Jesus tells us a story about a person who needed to borrow bread from his neighbour, even though it was the middle of the night. Not deterred by the antisocial timing, he knocked on his neighbour’s door and he, although naturally reluctant to get up and disturb his family at that hour, granted his request, because he knew how persistent this man was. Jesus tells us that the recognised persistence of the man resulted in him receiving the loaves he needed to feed his own nocturnal visitor (Luke 11:8). Jesus is teaching the disciples that they should be willing to be persistent in prayer, although He adds that their Heavenly Father is always very ready and willing to respond to prayers.
However, there is a second, and perhaps more troubling lesson that this young boy has been learning. He has become aware that his mother is able to be emotionally manipulated and that her “No” might become a “Yes”, if he pesters her long enough. It seems to me that incidents like this set a dangerous precedent, which if repeated, will put the future of their relationship on a collision course. As the boy becomes bigger, stronger and more self-willed, and his mother becomes more exhausted, she will eventually give up trying to rightly guide her son. He will be left without right accountability and will run wild. Any respect he had for authority will be undermined. His willingness to accept any boundaries that he dislikes will be eroded, and his focus on getting his own way at any cost will be strengthened. All potentially disastrous for his future life!
Jesus tells the disciples they need to be sure about what they are saying when they say “Yes” and “No”. He tells them that they don’t need to add anything to strengthen these, such as an oath. He is saying, be careful what you agree to and stick to your agreements and decisions. I have realised that in bringing up children their sense of security and ability to grow in right self-governance, comes from having clear, godly and consistent instruction in their childhood. For parents it is especially important that they consider carefully before they make their final decision on anything, so that their “Yes” and “No” are clearly stated, because they have been carefully and prayerfully considered as the best for the child and are therefore unnegotiable.
God is clear about what is acceptable and what is not. God’s “Yes” is “Yes” and it is certain. God’s “No” is “No”, and He never changes it. In the world that is for ever shifting and changing its stance on so many topics, what a comfort this is!
Prayer: Oh Lord, help me to think carefully before I say Yes or No to any request or make an authoritative decision which may affect other people’s lives. Help me to stop, think and pray before I respond, so that my “Yes” is “Yes”, and my “No” is “No”. I ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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