Monday, December 7, 2009

Did You Mean It?

How many times have you made a promise to someone and not kept it?  It is an easy question, one that should gender an immediate response from all of us.  Whether the promise was made in confidence, or simply a task another has asked us to perform, no one is innocent of having made one and then not broken it.   We all too often make rash vows to each other without thinking about our ability to keep them.  Because we are human and for various reasons allow ourselves to be overcome by temptation, idleness, or a wagging tongue, the oaths we make to others become empty and meaningless.  We would have been better served by not making them in the first place rather than committing ourselves and then letting down the person to whom the promise was made.

Perhaps the most often used and broken vow is the one man makes to God.  “I’ll come someday, Lord.  I have plenty of time.  But first, I want to taste of the world and experience what it has to offer.  After I’ve done all of that, I promise, then, I’ll come.”

No, you won’t.  And God knows you will be unable to keep that promise because the deeper you delve into the world and the farther you stray from Him, the harder it will be to return to Him and fulfill it.  Man carelessly tosses tidbits of promises now and then to God; appeasing his own conscience by making them and thinking He will be satisfied.  But God knows the depth of the hearts of men and how shallow and empty they can be.

Bargaining with God can bring about circumstances that are hard to accept.  Hannah knew this when she promised to dedicate Samuel to the Temple and the Lord’s service (1Sam 1-2).  Our prayers, especially during times of trial and distress, are sometimes full of bargaining chips.  “I will do this or that, Lord, if You will only do this or that for me.”  God answered Hannah’s prayers because He knew her heart was sincere and that she would keep the oath she made, regardless of the pain it caused.  We should use extreme caution when we attempt to barter with God because He may just take us up on it.  We should ask ourselves, before we make the promise, if we really mean it and will be true to Him and follow up on the vow we have made.  God keeps His promises and if we make one to Him, He expects us to keep ours.

Before the question, “Did you mean it?” is forced upon you, pause a moment and consider what Jesus taught about making vows (Matt 5:33-37).  Because we live in a sinful and distrustful society, a man’s word is no longer looked upon as a bond of truth and a surety of promise.  It is no longer enough to have a man’s word that he will perform satisfactorily.  Instead, our litigious society has removed the handshake of good faith and replaced it with a burdensome legal system.  But Jesus Christ emphasized in this passage the importance of staying true to your word.  He condemned casual and careless oaths, especially in God’s name, and instructed His followers to let their “ ’yes’ be ’yes, and [their] ’no’, ’no’.”  If you give your word as a pledge but have no intention of keeping it, you break trust, not only with the one the promise was made, but also with your God Whom you have offended.  Keeping an oath is not easily accomplished.  So it is best, according to Jesus who sets the standards, not to make one.

If we remain truthful in all our dealings, if our reputation for being honest in everything we say is recognized as commendable and trustworthy, there will never be a need to back it up with a promise or an oath.  And if you find yourself in the position of making a promise to accept and serve God, be prepared to keep it, or the question, “Did you mean it?”, may come to bear heavily upon you.

Additional reading:

Leviticus 5:4
Numbers 30:1-2

1 comment:

Mama Mimi (Dana) said...

The only reason that we can keep a promise to God is God Himself. The Holy Spirit is the One Who reminds us of our promise and urges us to keep it. The Holy Spirit gives us a way out of temptation and convicts us if we succomb. Alas, I fail miserably most of the time. My promise to God is very weak compared to His promise to me. In fact, nothing compared to it. He is the promise giver and promise keeper. He has proven Himself over and over. I just pray that others that we all love will see that promise and cling to it and nothing else. And then I say, Come Lord Jesus. You promised. Love to all of you.