Promises — Just Don’t

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Faces of Death
Tags: , , , , , , ,

“As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut.  It is evil to make mindless offerings to God.  Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God.  After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth.  So let your words be few.  Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.  When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools.  Keep all the promises you make to him.  It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.  Don’t let your mouth make you sin.  And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake.  That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved.  Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities.  Fear God instead.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)

“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.  But I say, do not make any vows!  Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne.  And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool.  And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King.  Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black.  Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”  (Matthew 5:33-37)

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)

We have all made promises.  In moments of desperation, anger, a determination to prove ourselves worthy of trust, a determination to hold ourselves back from sin, we have made promises to ourselves, to others, and to God.

The problem with making a promise is that the very act supposes that, by our sheer willpower and strength, we can keep the promise.  This is a rotten fruit of pride.

Human willpower and strength is puny and if we think differently, we are prideful.  We may have the determination to keep some of our promises, but the burden we carry on our shoulders to keep them is tremendous.  And, ultimately, we are human, living in a fallen flesh in a fallen world, and much more often than not inevitably do the opposite of what we intend.

When we break our promises, we hurt ourselves and others.  Even breaking a seemingly innocent or insignificant promise yields subliminal and spiritual consequences that are indeed significant, since at the very least, we face the fact that we did not keep the promise, regardless of the reason.

We were not strong enough, thoughtful enough, trustworthy enough, honorable enough to keep our promise.   The result is the obvious subliminal and spiritual implication that we are not good enough.  And the more it happens, the more it sinks in and affects our self-image and our relationships, especially our relationship with God.

Making a promise to God is dangerous business.  It should be avoided. Christians have been told in God’s Holy Word that we can do nothing apart from Christ.  So it is utter foolishness to make a promise to God.  If we’re foolish enough to make a promise to God and we fail, we risk facing His Holy anger and the consequences may be devastating.  Just don’t.

If we need a reminder of what the outcome of making promises to God look like, we need look no further than the story of Jephthah (Judges 11).  Jephthah was one of Israel’s judges and a mighty warrior.  When he was about to go to war against the Ammonites, he prayed to God for victory and VOWED that, in return, he would give the Lord whatever came out of his house to meet him when he returned home in triumph.  He vowed he would sacrifice it as a burnt offering.  Perhaps Jephthah imagined the family dog would come running up the road to meet him upon his return and he could just kill it and offer it to God.  That would have been disturbing enough, but it was Jephthah’s daughter who was first to greet him upon his return.  He tore his clothes in anguish when he saw her and cried because he understood it would be better, even under these circumstances, to fulfill his vow to God than to break his promise and suffer the consequences along with his family.  Pretty harsh, but this is how serious the promise making business is.

Imagine the thrill our enemy Satan enjoys at our peril when we make promises.  He needs only sit and wait for us to fail. He does not even have to do any work.  We harm ourselves. 

This is why Christ Jesus said “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”

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