And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
I know that I have made promises that I didn’t keep, and in most of these cases, I wasn’t able to because of circumstances. So when I made some promises to my wife and children, I should have qualified it with “if something else doesn’t come up” or “I promise I will to the best of my ability.” I would rather not make promises, but as Jesus said, make it either yes or no (Matt. 5:37). When we make promises and then break them, we become promise breakers, and this destroys trust in relationships. I am very hesitant to make promises; rather, I would say that I’d do what I can, or if it is at all possible, I will do such and such. I think we’re better off not making promises that we can’t keep or might prove difficult in keeping. For example, I can’t make promises to my grandchildren that I will visit them every month because things come up and they live far away. I can’t promise them that they won’t have their feelings hurt or that a friend won’t betray them because I have no power to ensure that these things won’t happen. But as for God? That’s another story.
The Promise Keeper
God is the only One Who makes promises and never breaks them because He has the power to bring His promises about. I think it’s better not to make a promise or a vow to God unless you are absolutely certain you can keep it. Better not to make a vow at all than to make one to God and then break it (Num. 30:2; Eccl. 5:4-5). God promises to never break any of His covenants or alter any of the words that He proclaims (Psalm 89:34). He doesn’t slack off on what He promises like men or women do (2 Pet. 3:9). God is not like mankind in that He cannot lie (Num. 23:19). Jesus warns us to not make vows with God (Matt. 5:33) because we can’t control circumstances like He can. Not one thing that God has ever spoken in a promise has ever failed (John 23:14). I can’t say the same thing about myself.
After reading so much about the unreliability of promises by mankind and the absolute certainty that God will never break a promise He makes, we should do everything within our power to follow through on something that we said we would do. Even if we don’t promise but say we will do this or that, it is essentially the same thing as a promise because we said we’d do it. Our word is our promise. If you want to keep a strong bond of trust among those you know, you will follow through on everything you said, even if it’s to your own hurt. Such a thing happened with Jephthah, who made a foolish vow or promise to God, one that some Bible scholars argue may have cost him his daughter’s life (Judges 11:29-40). Therefore, let your yes be yes and your no be no, even your maybe be maybe, but don’t make promises that you can’t keep with certainty. If you do make promises, do all that is humanly possible to follow through on them.
A Closing Prayer
God, You have promised to give those of us who believe in Your Son eternal life (John 3:16) and to give us Jesus’ own righteousness at His own expense (2 Cor. 5:21). Thank You, God, for being so faithful to Your word, and forgive me when I have broken my own word of promise. In Jesus’ name I pray.
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