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Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries

"To Vow or Not to Vow"

May 28, 2005

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Praise awaits You, O God, in Zion; to You our vows will be fulfilled. Psalm 65:1

The ancients knew that one should not make foolish vows or rash promises. They told about a king of Crete who had fought in the Trojan War and who, on his return voyage, was caught in a severe sea storm. He vowed to Poseidon, the sea god, that he would sacrifice to him the first living being he would meet on landing, should his life be preserved. The first person he met was his own son. He kept his false vow and sacrificed him.

People make wrong vows today when they try to bargain with God: “Lord, let me win this money, and I’ll give You half of it,” or “Lord, make me well, and I’ll enter a holy order and devote the rest of my life to You,” or “Lord, help me make this sale, and I’ll never miss a Sunday in church from now on.”

What is wrong about this is that we cannot bargain with God; we cannot earn His favor, which comes only as a free, undeserved gift. It is unwise to vow or promise anything that may exceed our ability. Further, the temptation arises to change one’s mind and not do what has been pledged. Jesus tells us we need not vow or swear in the everyday things of life. He says: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37).

Vows are in place in the church: baptismal vows, confirmation vows, marriage vows, ordination vows. In public life we administer the oath of office to an elected official. “So help me God” is part of the formula. This is proper, for our Lord says, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

This saying applies especially to our salvation. No one can save himself or earn God’s favor and a place in heaven by good works. The Bible is very clear on this: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8) – through faith in Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior from sin and the fear of death by His own death and resurrection.

Foolish vows? No. God-pleasing vows based on His help? Yes.

PRAYER: Lord God, help me to avoid false vows and promises and give me strength to fulfill proper vows in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Devotions from "With Jesus Every Day" copyright 1997, CPH. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be printed, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Permission is granted for one-time emailing of this link to a friend. For information on other devotional material, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit CPH at

Today's Bible Readings: Psalms 24-26    John 10:22-42

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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