Matthew 5:33-37, Exodus 20:7, Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, Matthew 26:62-64, James 5:12
Last year, my 8-year-old son, Eli, was at a friend’s birthday party. Toward the end of the party, he ran over to me, sobbing uncontrollably. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me his friend had promised not to kill his player on a video game they had been playing; but unfortunately, his friend continued to do so. While I insisted that it was only a game, Eli looked at me and said with the deepest sincerity, “But, it’s not right to break a promise.”
This is actually one of the most important lessons of which the Scriptures constantly remind us. Whether it is the law of God (Exodus 20:7), the wisdom literature (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7), the Gospels, or the Epistles, there is no part of Scripture in which the Lord does not confront us with the call to be truth-loving, truth-speaking, and truth-acting people. The Savior sums up this important principle of Christian living when He says, “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
Our society is one in which we are accustomed to breaking our vows. People treat marriage vows, church membership vows, and financial agreements with the greatest of flippancy. Ours is a society that will break our promises over the smallest and most insignificant of things. The lack of emphasis on this important subject makes a true theology of vow-taking and vow-keeping one of the greatest needs of our day.
That being said, vow-breaking is not something unique to our time. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, religious leaders in Israel constructed a complex system of getting out of vows. The Pharisees practiced subterfuge by actually using the name of God, and their service in His name, to release them from the obligation to keep the vows that they made. In doing so, they were functionally bringing the name of God into the service of their hypocrisy. This is why Jesus condemned all deceitful practice in vow-making to be “of the evil one.”
God is the God of truth. Jesus self-identified as “the Truth.” Therefore, all those who profess faith in Christ are to be truth-loving, truth-speaking, and truth-acting people. Even as we say this, we recognize our many failures in keeping the vows we have made. None of us has perfectly fulfilled all that we have said we would do.
The good news of the gospel is that the One who said, “I am the Truth,” was nailed to the tree for all the times we have spoken and lived deceitfully. His promise to forgive those who come to Him in repentance and faith is a sure and steadfast “Yes” because of His covenant faithfulness to His own promises (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Written by Nick Batzig