I couldn't stop myself and made a vow that God says I have to keep

Question:

Can I have your opinion about Ecclesiastes 5:4-7?

"When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God" (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7).

Doesn't "do not say in the presence of the Messenger of God that it was a mistake", either it is Jesus, a priest or an angel, that I can't be forgiven for my vows said out loud? One day, I broke and ended up promising out loud to God I will never play with my video games again. Right after, I think (I'm not sure about it), I said I was giving up another hobby too (nothing sinful). I can't live without the second hobby. It's really important for me, but I feel like all the verses are against me.

Please, can you help me?


Answer:

Notice what you are doing to yourself: you are finding ways to condemn yourself. No one requested that you give up playing your video games or doing your hobby. You picked these things because you like them, but for whatever reason you don't think you should be happy. I wonder if you think the only way to be religious is to be miserable. Thus, you have a compulsion to "vow" to God to give up things that make you happy and then it becomes God's fault that you are unhappy because you see it as God making you keep your word.

  1. Passing thoughts are not vows.
  2. Vows have purpose, such as Jephthah wanting to thank God for helping him win a war. There is no purpose here, only compulsion. Self-imposed misery is not a purpose.
  3. The vows are voluntary.
  4. The vows were made to (or in the presence of) a representative of God -- not something said to yourself.

The first two verses establishes the boundaries of the command: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed - better not to vow than to vow and not pay" (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). Thus, this is a command about vows of payment to God. It refers back to a law given by Moses: "When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you.  However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you.  You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised" (Deuteronomy 23:21-23).

Notice that this does not match what you've been doing. Giving up things that make you happy is not a payment to God. God's want or ask for your misery. Nor is what you are doing voluntary. You are not engaged in this to make God happy, you are doing this solely to make yourself unhappy. "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (II Corinthians 9:7). Notice that repeatedly it says, "better not to vow;" yet, you don't really consider the fact that you don't have to make these vows. You feel that you have to. You use this to trap yourself in misery.

These verses are more about someone in their joy wanting to thank God, such as an author vowing to give a quarter of the profits from his latest book to church. Such an offer is supposed to be seriously considered and not be something stated without thinking it through. The person must really want to do, knowing he doesn't have to do it, and knows he will be happy to keep that vow. Thus, using the author example again, his book suddenly becomes a blockbuster and he finds he owes the Lord a million dollars. He doesn't change the terms of his vow just because it was more than he had originally projected. (Not that he is doing bad because he still is making more money than he originally projected as well.)

There is a strong temptation to alter the terms of vows when things go better than you dreamed or the amount is higher than you expected. It is easy to make claims before the deeds are done, but will those words have meaning? "Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?  For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God" (Ecclesiastes 7:6-7). Thus, the warning is not to let greed get in your way of keeping your vows.

All aspects of Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 do not match what you are doing. It doesn't apply. God doesn't need or want you to be miserable.

Mr Hamilton,

Thanks for your response. I particularly loved the verse at I Corinthian 9:7.

Have a good day.