Keeping the Pledge
“When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Eccl. 5:4–5).
Today we conclude our look at the biblical teaching regarding oaths and vows. As we have seen this week, God is very much concerned with the vows we make, especially since they are made in His name. Because we invoke His presence when we swear oaths, we must make sure that we swear only lawful oaths and then once sworn, we must always keep them.
Oaths are necessary for human society because of the tendency of fallen human beings to lie. As today’s passage tells us, oaths are extremely important to God — so important that it is better that we never make them at all than if we make them and do not fulfill them (Eccl. 5:4–5). God would rather have us ignore oaths altogether than have us make a vow only to break it.
When we break our vows, we deny that truth is sacred. For if we really agreed that truth was sacred, we would always be true to the promises that we make. If we break a promise made in God’s name, we affirm that His promise to hold us accountable is not valid.
Moreover, today’s passage also tells us that when we delay paying a vow, we make ourselves to be fools (Eccl. 5:4). It is the fool that has said in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 14:1). Whenever we do not keep our vows, we have really ceased to fear God’s holy judgment on those who break their oaths. If we no longer truly fear His judgment, we have acted as if God does not exist. He then becomes no more real to us than He is to the one who denies God with his mouth.
None of us will ever keep all of his vows perfectly before he dies. However, there is hope for us. When we break our promises we have an advocate with our Father in heaven (1 John 2:1). He ever lives to intercede for us and plead our forgiveness if we would but repent and turn to Him (Heb. 7:25).
In glory, there will be no need for oaths because our glorification will remove any desire on our part to be less than truthful. Until then, we make lawful oaths on proper occasions so that we will be reminded that we live before the face of God and, therefore, must be as concerned with the truth as He is.
We are foolish if we think that we can make a lawful vow and then not pay it. God regards our oaths as sacred and will hold us accountable if we break them. Take some time today to consider the oaths you have taken and ask yourself if you have fulfilled them. If not, repent today and then begin to do what is necessary to fulfill your oaths. In doing so you will affirm the sanctity of truth and live out your confession of faith in our God and Father.
Passages for Further Study
Num. 30:2; 1 Sam. 1; Ps. 76:11; Acts 5:1–11; 21:17–26