“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” -Matthew 5:37

While giving His Sermon on The Mount, Jesus tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. Like most of the words of Christ, and indeed all God breathed scripture, there is deep meaning here that must be explored.

A vow to God is no small thing, as is evident in the story of Jephthah and his daughter in the book of Judges (Chapter 11). Jephthah made the vow that if he was victorious in battle against the Ammonites, then he would sacrifice the first thing to come out of his door when he arrived back at home.

I don’t know what in the world he was thinking, for it seems odd that he didn’t consider the possibility of any of his family walking out to greet him when he came home, but be that as it may, his daughter was the first thing to walk out of the door. The scriptures tell of Jephthah and his daughters mourning concerning what was to come to pass, and although the scriptures don’t go into detail concerning the sacrifice, it can be concluded that it did in fact occur.

This admittedly horrific tale is often used by non-believers to throw a wrench in our faith in a perfect loving God, but we have to remember that nowhere in this tale is it said that God approved of Jephthah’s actions. Rather, when we look at the scriptures, this event must have been extremely displeasing to the Lord, for time and time again, the word tells us God discourages human sacrifice. The Pagan’s often did it by tragically throwing children into a fiery pit to worship Molech, but God tells us He wants no part of such offerings. In fact, the Ammonites were worshippers of Molech making a veiled connection between both the Judges account and the commands in Leviticus, which could very well suggest God’s distaste for the act (See my note on Leviticus 20:3, “On Molech’s Taste For Human Sacrifice and God’s Distaste”).

So why is it included in scripture then? Simply, it is intended as a warning to those that make a vow before God, how much that promise, or vow, must be honored by the person making it. Jephthah was an example that showed the degree of seriousness a vow to God is.

Again, Christ tells us to make no oaths, for beyond that comes from evil. Why evil? Let us take a look at the nature of oaths and vows. When someone says, “I promise,” what is it they mean? They mean that no matter what circumstance might arise to keep them from accomplishing and fulfilling that vow, that they will follow through. There becomes a few issues with this point alone.

When making a vow, the outside situations that may arise while in pursuit of fulfilling that vow are unknown to us. We have no idea of knowing, for instance, if some disaster or misfortune will hinder our obedience in completing that promise. As is mentioned earlier, this doesn’t excuse the vow being broken, rather we need to realize it is still binding no matter what issues may arise. This being said, it reaches no absurdity to conclude that with God’s infinite wisdom, though He makes vows, no contradiction or hypocrisy exists, for He has an omniscience that is not present in man.

Furthermore, one should reflect on who it is that makes vows and promises. Though not an absolute, I would suggest that the more promises a person makes, the more untrustworthy they are. For such people it is intended to add to their “yes” the extra confidence that their vow will be followed through with and accomplished. This, of course, suggests that the person making the vow has been less then trustworthy in the past, or their word alone would have been taken with complete confidence to begin with. Yet, people should have confidence in a person anyway that their yes will mean yes, and their no mean no, without any added attribution.

A person who doesn’t do what they say is untrustworthy and an untrustworthy person is under the influence of evil, for evil begets lies and deceit. Indeed, essentially, a broken vow is the same as a lie. Be trustworthy. Do not behave in such a way that you need to make vows just for people to believe you, but live in a way that people can rely on you just by what you say. That in their darkest days they may ask you to help carry their burdens like our Lord Jesus commands (See my note on Galatians 6:2, “On The Greatest Burden and The Greatest Love”).

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