A promise made and not kept is a lot like stealing. It’s like going to the coffeeshop, buying a latte on your tab, and then skipping town. It’s getting the immediate benefit of words cheaply spoken without the cost of following through. We often hear the aphorism, “Talk is cheap,” but in the kingdom of God, words hold weight. There is no cheap talk; His very words spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1–3). And God’s word, which spoke light into the darkness, speaks light into our hearts (2Corinthians 4:6).
The good news is that God did not choose Israel to be His covenant people because they were extra-special or able to keep their promises, but because of His love for them (Deuteronomy 7:6). The same is true for you and me. And at the heart of today’s reading—which covers such sundry topics as ritual purity, slavery, prostitution, appropriate (and inappropriate) mooching from your neighbor’s lands, and loan sharks—comes this admonition:
“Be careful to do whatever comes from your lips,
because you have freely vowed
what you promised to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 23:23).
God’s people are a covenant people, so words matter. A covenant is a matter of words, and requires commitments made by words meaning something. Our faith is ultimately trusting in the promises of God—and He is the God who keeps His word. As people trusting in the word-made promises of God, it is essential we imitate our heavenly Father as word-keeping people.
We often struggle with the day-to-day reality of keeping our word. It’s easy to make promises that make things better in the moment without counting the cost. It’s even easier to use words lightly with our children, especially facing their existing demands of our time and attention, promising to play at a later time that never comes. We often excuse our hasty promises or commitments with a sense of “we’re only human.”
Certainly, making a vow to the Lord is far more serious in nature than hasty promises of play to our children. However, the principle still stands. This admonition against unkept vows, under the commandment against stealing, is like skipping out of town with no intention of paying the tab.
No, we don’t keep our word perfectly, but our heavenly Father does, and calls us to take seriously what we vow to do. And His admonition to us, to be people of our word, is a comforting reminder to live in response to His character. God does not lie; what He says He will do He does. Feel the glorious weight of our heavenly Father’s promises! We can trust Him to be exactly who He says He is.