The incomparable Jim Carrey starred in a movie released a few years ago about a fellow who makes a covenant to always say ‘yes’ to every request. In the film “Yes Man” (2008) Carrey is a loan officer named Carl who is convinced by an old friend to attend a seminar. At this event Carl encounters a motivational speaker who, along with the crowd, browbeats him into making the covenant.
For most of the film the decision to say ‘yes’ to every request works like a charm. The affirmatives lead to great consequences for Carl. The former curmudgeon and recluse comes out of his shell.
He begins to care about people again after a divorce, and even gets a new girlfriend. The loan officer gets a promotion because one of his bank’s big bosses likes the micro-loans Carl gives to people because of his covenant.
Carl even says ‘yes’ to ads. He learns Korean and takes guitar lessons. Both of these new skills lead to helping other people. Carl even takes flying lessons.
In our post-911 world, this skill and other results of his saying ‘yes’ to everything get him in trouble. The FBI wonders why this man has suddenly learned to fly, learned a foreign language, and given a loan to someone for fertilizer (a key ingredient in bomb-making.) Carl and his girl Allison are arrested as potential terrorists.
Carl’s lawyer friend comes and gets them out of the jam by explaining Carl’s commitment to saying ‘yes’ to everything. Unfortunately, Carl also loses Allison because she doubts his sincerity about their relationship. She wonders if the entire sequence of events in their courtship was a sham. Plus, she learns he was married once, something Carl neglected to tell her.
“How do I know if anything you did was because
you wanted to or because of some goddamn program?”, Allison says.
She also doubted his sincerity when he hesitated before agreeing to move in with her, at her request.
Eventually Carl runs down the “Yes” guru Terrence and asks to be released from the covenant. Terrence tells him,”There is no covenant.”
His speech to Carl about a covenant of ‘yes’ was all what Terrance calls a “riff” to keep from being embarrassed in public by Carl’s skepticism.
Terrence adds that the ‘yes’ mechanism is just to get people to open up to new possibilities.
“That’s just to open you up to get you started.
Then you are saying ‘yes’
not because you have to
not because a covenant told you to
because you know in your heart
that you want to.”
Thankfully for Carl, he begins to be sincere, but also knows he has learned a lot from being a “Yes Man.” He HAS been led to new possibilities. Carl and Allison reconcile after she sees his new honesty.
In some ways the whole “yes” covenant seemed attractive to me when I watched the movie the other day. I am by nature a people pleaser, but I am also at the moment like Carl before his covenant.
I am irascible. I am a recluse except when I go to work.
Although Carl saw the light of new possibilities, he didn’t use common sense. He thought he had signed on the dotted line to some zealous, religious-style philosophy which he was supposed to keep to the letter.
It’s when everything stopped going good and his life began to unravel that Carl got the picture. It didn’t hurt that Terrence ‘fessed up” to his own lack of truthfulness and message full of bull.
As a Bible believing Christian I have become quite wary of the church these days, especially the evangelical movement from which I hail. I think a lot of evangelicals and their ministers mean well, but they don’t know what the hell they are talking about.
Don’t get me a wrong. I have been greatly helped by some churches and individuals within the Church. However, when things go awry as they did for Carl, ministers and evangelical zealots don’t seem to have answers for life. They only have principles, and sometimes they just don’t seem to apply.
Jesus told us that in our communication we should answer with a simple yes or no (Matthew 5:37). Bibl commentator Matthew Henry notes the importance of avoiding vanity and the need for sincerity in discussing this statement.
During my lifetime I was taught that my sincerity didn’t matter so much. What matters I was told is obedience. If I obey, I was told, then the sincerity would come.
Unfortunately obedience is something I have always had trouble with, including obedience to God. I think this is because I have not trusted God, that he has my best in mind. Nor have I trusted sinful man. So because I didn’t trust, I didn’t ‘want to” obey.
Lately, given the state of my life, my trust in evangelical preachers has come to nothing because they have had no answers to my life dilemmas.
There is something to be said for “want to.” I think sincerity must be there in order to obey. The only Person worthy of my trust is Jesus. He is the Lord of Truth. What man says to be true, even when he uses the Bible to support his argument, is not necessarily so.
Warren Wiersbe writes in a commentary on I John 2 that sincerity is not enough to make something true. My take? Our good intentions are not enough. The well meaning sermon from a pastor is not enough.
“Faith in a lie will always cause serious consequences. Faith in the truth is never misplaced. It does make a difference what a man believes. If a man wants to drive from Chicago to New York no amount of sincerity will get him there if the highway is taking him to Los Angeles. A person who is real builds his life on the truth, not superstition or lies. It is impossible to live a real life by believing lies.
…it is not enough for a believer to walk in the light and to walk in love; he must also walk in truth. The issue is truth–or consequences.”
Wiersbe goes on to say that we are in the last days before the return of Christ and that there are two “forces” at work: the Spirit of God and the spirit of Antichrist. This makes a lot of sense. Satan has certainly had his heyday with me and some of my friends and relatives.
The only Person worthy of my trust is Jesus. He is the Lord of Truth. What man says to be true, even when he uses the Bible to support his argument, is not necessarily so.
My quest is to go to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and let Jesus through His Holy Spirit guide me. I believe He uses the Word of God the Bible to do that. But the Bible is spiritually discerned.
Only through the Holy Spirit will I know what truth is and what to obey. If I know it comes from God, the “want to” is more likely to be there. But I have to have faith in Him. I certainly don’t have faith in man.
The Apostle Paul is a good model for me. He wrote:
“Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate ‘Yes,’ he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.” (II Corinthians 1:17b-20).
Paul was worthy of trust because he was especially commissioned by Jesus to build His Church. It’s not going to be easy, but I do believe I cannot throw the baby out with the bath water.
The Church is the Body of Christ. He started it. I just need to find a place and a shepherd who is trustworthy, one I can say ‘Yes’ to, and mean it.