Ecclesiastes 5 and Vows

For my weekly quiet time, I studied Ecclesiastes 5.  The chapter warns against talking a lot to God, for, in our many ramblings, we may end up making God a promise that we can’t keep.  Then, when God, an angel, or a temple messenger (however one understands malach in v 6) comes to collect, or to judge us for not paying what we vowed, we end up offering a poor excuse, and God destroys the work of our hands.

Personally, I will continue to talk a lot to God.  “Pray without ceasing,” I Thessalonians 5:17 says in the King James Version.  To echo Philip Yancey, I pray for the company.  I need to talk to someone about my life, with its ups and downs, and, in my opinion, God is there to listen to me, even though Qoheleth is correct to note that God is in heaven, while I am on earth.  But I’m also in favor of being a man of my word: In my ramblings before God, I should take heed not to promise something that I won’t be willing to deliver.  Christian commentators whom I read today said that this sort of principle carries over into the New Testament.  In their interpretation of Acts 5, God struck down Ananias and Sapphira because they promised to give God all the money that they made from selling their land, but they did not deliver.

There’s more I can say about this.  When I was young (maybe in my teens), I once promised God that I’d never again commit a certain act.  But I broke that promise many times because, well, I’m human.  I don’t think God has cursed me and my family on account of that.  But, in my opinion, that doesn’t give me a free ride to make more frivolous promises to God, and so I don’t make promises that I may not be willing to keep.  I wonder why I should even have to make a vow to get God to hear and answer my prayers.  Shouldn’t God’s love for me be a sufficient reason for him to provide for my needs, to bless me, to comfort me, etc.?  But people in the Hebrew Bible made promises—they gave God a sacrifice if God answered their prayers.  I think it’s good to be thankful and to express that thanksgiving in some tangible manner, but I don’t want to make promises that I may regret in the future.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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