Sunday, September 05, 2010

Empty promises

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil." Ecclesiastes 5:1

I fill out my missions pledge card in the heat of the moment, my faith buoyed by the stories of miracle provision in other places. Any second thoughts as to the amount I promise to give monthly are quelled by the pastor's words: "This faith promise is between God and you. No one will ever call on you to collect." I leave, feeling happy with myself. However, the months that follow will tell whether or not those feelings are justified.

Do I take my pledge seriously when finances are low, or a new need arises that requires every spare nickel and dime? Or have I made the "sacrifice of fools" — an empty promise that I break when my circumstances change?

Solomon in Ecclesiastes, warns against such glib vows "Better not to vow than to vow and not pay," he says (vs. 5).

I can think of several reasons we make promises to God that we don't keep.
  • Sometimes we make them in the heat of the emotional moment. Later when our feelings have cooled, we go back on those vows.
  • We might make a promise to God when we're in trouble, to try to induce Him to help us out.
  • If the promise-making is public, we might pledge to do a certain thing or give a certain sum of money to impress others.
  • Of course we might also make promises to God as genuine expressions of faith, love, devotion, and gratitude.

Solomon's warning to think before we make a promise to God is excellent. We can use that thinking time to examine our motives. For when we make promises to God and break them, it becomes that much easier to feel casual about promises we make the next time, and the next. Our relationship easily becomes one of habitually making promises we don't intend to keep.

But when we keep our promises to God, we demonstrate to ourselves and others that we genuinely respect ("fear") God who isn't in the least duped by our empty and unfulfilled promises in any case.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to search and know my own heart when it comes to making vows or promises to You. Amen

MORE: "Let My Words Be Few" (by Matt Redman, sung here by Philips, Craig and Dean)

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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