Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making and Paying Vows

When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth. (Dt. 23:21-23)

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matt. 5:33-37)
I've taken a couple of vows over the course of my life. I vowed to remain faithful to God and to die rather than leave the confession of the Holy Trinity when I was confirmed as a Lutheran. Thank God I did not vow to die rather than leave the Lutheran faith, as our hymnal now requires of confirmands (see here for more reasons)! I took a vow to remain faithful to my wife, to love and cherish her and so forth on July 1, 2000. I took a vow to preach and teach God's Word according to our Lutheran Confessions on August 13, 2000.

But the revelation to Moses and the revelation of Jesus both affirm: Don't make vows. Why is that? Because we get in some serious trouble when we break them. We're setting ourselves up to sin. If we don't make a vow, we are not bound, and we don't have to worry about it. If you have a drinking problem, you sin when you get drunk. But if you made a vow before God not to drink, and you get drunk, you're sinning because you're drunk, and you're breaking the vow-another sin. And God will hold you accountable to the promises you make Him.

I love this about God. He's really on our side in this, hemming us in, protecting us from ourselves and others. He really wants to bless us, to make us succeed in overcoming sin (true Success, not the consumerist idea you see in Christian bookstores). It's as if our Lord is saying, "I know you want to make me these big promises...but I know how easy it is for you to fail. Don't be tempted to promise what you can't do. Don't set yourself up for failure. Just say "yes" or "no," just live and don't bind yourself more than you have to." He is a good Father.

So what about these vows I made? Were they wrong? By no means! But they are serious as cancer. So are yours.

UPDATE: Missing link placed in paragraph above.


  1. Anastasia Theodoridis said...

    Well, in Baptism we made vows, too, and those cover just about any sin, don't they?

  2. -C said...

    In my naivete as an Orthodox newbie, I am not sure that vows are made at Orthodox baptisms. Statements of faith are confessed, to be sure - but I need to be reminded about vows in the Orthodox Baptism liturgy - I can't recall any.

    But I do know that vows were made on my behalf at my baptism when I was a Lutheran - and that as a Lutheran I took those vows for myself at Confirmation.

    But I, too am glad that I did not vow to die rather than leave the Lutheran faith.