Jim, When I was a young Christian in college. I was all psyched up to work in video production and TV. I remember praying and made a vow telling the Lord that I would work in Christian TV as a volunteer for the rest of my life. After school I spent 3.5 years of my life working as a full time volunteer for a Christian ministry that turned out to be the some of the most miserable years of my life. After much frustration and anger I finally gave notice and left. Thirty years later I am back volunteering full time for the same ministry simply because God has not opened any other door. However, my wife and I are ready to move on. I struggle with the issue of promising the Lord to work as a full time volunteer. I can't honestly say that I made that vow out of a heart of faith. I certainly regret it now as it clouds my decision making for the future. I also remember the Lord saying that we should not make vows, since we are unable to keep them...but I still feel obligated to mine, since I read so many scriptures that seem to talk about keeping one's vows. Am I just laboring needlessly under the law in this area of my life? I believe I should exercise my freedom and just do what I want to do and forgive myself for making a vow that I can't really keep with a whole a heart of joy and faith. What do you advise? Cris
Hello my friend Cris! At one time (while I was in Bible college), I would have told you to keep those old vows to the Lord ... however, I have come to see, just as you have also been considering, that we made those vows under some often heavy compulsion. Yes, we made those vows as if we were under the Law. The funny thing is, we assumed that God was as psyched as we were about those vows. I discovered the same true freedom found in the passage about making vows, where it stated that it is better to not make a vow than to make one and then break it. And yes, Jesus reiterated the same truth when he spoke of not making vows at all. I am convinced that God is glad to see us get out from under the bondage of Law ... including those laws we made for ourselves. We don't need no stinking vows, for we have true life in Christ. So, I suggest that you do way more than just forgive yourself for making a vow that was not made with a whole heart, I suggest that you let HIS vow of conforming you to the image of his son blow those old fleshly vows out of the water!! It is for freedom that we have been set free. Jim
When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised. Deuteronomy 23:21-23
When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Ecclesiastes 5:4-5
Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. Matthew 5:33-37
I'm adding some thoughts to what I wrote above. In other words, this was not part of the original reply.
Listen to the simplicity as Jesus cut to the chase regarding the reason behind oaths or vows in the first place. The reason? Because there is no real harmony between man's words and his intentions. People believe their words really have the power to bring their claims to fruition, and yet as Jesus said, a person cannot make one insignificant thing happen simply by speaking it. In truth, the vow, for man, is all about creating some wiggle room. In other words, men love to make promises and then later claim that there were valid reasons for not keeping it. The bottom line is that people will say whatever needs to be said to get something in return. The reason Jesus told them to not even make vows at all was not to go against the Law but to uncover the sneakiness of man (for the Law is not bad, but good). It does not take any special revelation to understand that if people were to simply mean what they said ('Yes, yes' or 'No, no') there would be no reason for a vow ... for it is common knowledge that a vow is meant to hold a man to his word, in case he later decide to break it. And even then, through the accumulation of lawyers and new rulings, people have discovered that they can easily lose what is owed them, or end up owing what they never agreed to. This is the result of the mind of man as he twists the Law to his own benefit. Now, I know there are many who have set Jesus' words up as some kind of new covenant command, but this is a total perversion of what he meant. I'm not saying that we should not do what we say, I'm saying that the truth behind what Jesus said is found within the grace of God that was to come through his own body and blood. For he was in the process of bringing about the new creation in himself. We have difficulty with all this because we are caught up in the failure of the flesh, which we keep alive by living as if we are still under Law. It's past time we discovered the truth about who we are and what we are truly about.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17