What does the Bible say about our commitments and obligations?

In Numbers chapters 28-30, Moses prepares the Israelites to enter the promised land by reviewing God’s rules on offerings, sacrifices, celebrations and vows. Moses is going to die and Joshua has been appointed to take over. So the generation has changed, the leadership is about to change, but the ways of God never change. Isn’t that refreshing? When God says something, He means it. He is faithful and true to His word; He can be counted on.

Unfortunately that isn’t always true for you and me. Numbers 30:1-2 says “This is what the LORD commands: When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.”

Our words are important to God. When we make a commitment to someone we should keep it. He takes our promises to others and to Himself very seriously (whether we do or not). Let’s face it, we all have good intentions, but many times we don’t follow through on them.

Jesus spoke about this as well in Matthew 5:34-37: “But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

This is a scripture I have used over and over again with my daughters. The first time it came up was when I overheard them in the back of the van doing a “pinky promise”. This verse came to mind and I explained to them that Jesus wants us to be so honest and careful with our words that any kind of “special promise” is unnecessary. The other important parenting application of these words from our Savior is that when Mom or Dad says “no”, we mean “no” so there is no need to ask again. It is easy to see that breaking a commitment to do something you said you would do is wrong, but sometimes a little less obvious when it is applied in the other direction. When we say “no” and then later give in, we are sinning according to this scripture. In order to properly model this biblical principal to our kids we must allow our “no” to mean “no”. Eventually they will understand that asking again and again is of no profit.

Too many times in our culture, our promise is like saying “unless something better comes along.” This command of the Lord says we should not break our word, period. We may very well change our mind about something, but we still do not break our word. I once heard a male celebrity say of his wife: “We’ll stay together as long as things are good.” You may have guessed–they are divorced today.

Whether we are joining a team, an activity or a class, God expects us to fulfill our obligations. Volunteer work, job, church, marriage, home mortgage, etc., we should live up to our word. In many circles today, the breaking of an oath is just standard business practice–but before God, it is simply sin.

Because God takes our vows so seriously, sometimes it is better not to make a vow. Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.”
This passage goes on to say “do not let your mouth lead you into sin”. We need to carefully consider our words and the commitments we make for ourselves and for our family. Vowing is voluntary and should stay in line with what pleases God. We need God’s direction in making vows. Take some time, don’t answer someone rashly, seek the Lord’s best and His wisdom before making a decision.

If you find yourself breaking commitments you’ve made on a regular basis, it may be that you are overcommitting yourself to begin with. Too many times we think everything looks good, there are so many opportunities for “good” things, activities and social events and we want to do them all, but it is not feasible or realistic for us or for our families. We must be discerning, prayerful, cautious about how we commit ourselves and our family. We need room in our days, our weeks and our lives. If the only speed in your life is “rush”, this can be a sure sign of overcommitment.

So, what about you? How does the Lord want you to apply this scripture? Ask yourself these questions:

Can I be trusted?

Am I known for my integrity?

Does my “yes” mean “yes” and my “no” mean “no”?

Think of the last 3 obligations you made. Did you completely fulfill them?

What am I teaching my kids regarding commitments? From my example and from what I require of them with their commitments?


One Comment

  1. Good article Chuck. However I prefer the word responsibility over obligation.

    September 25, 2016

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