Keeping your word

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NIV)

Read: Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

Consider: The book of Ecclesiastes is generally acknowledged as the work of King Solomon, although nowhere in the book is the identity of the writer revealed.  Our reading from Ecclesiastes 5 starts with the words: Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong (Ecclesiastes 5:1).  Eugene Peterson in The Message renders this verse as follows:  Watch your step when you enter God’s house.  Enter to learn.  That’s better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice.  Doing more harm than good.  

Why might we need to guard (or watch) our steps as we go up to the house of God?  The author may be thinking of those things mentioned in the later verses of Ecclesiastes 5. Firstly, he says: Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart (5:2).  This may refer to someone who is quick to give their opinion, before listening fully to the point being made.  We can all be prone to try to fix things by offering our opinion, before fully understanding exactly what the issue at stake really is.  In James’ letter we read: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak …’ (James 1:19).

Secondly, the author goes on to say: When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfil it.  He has no pleasure in fools; fulfil your vow.  It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfil it (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). Vows (promises) to God are things we don’t necessarily think too much about today.  However, it might be that someone rashly promises God that they will tithe their income and later decides not to carry through on their promise.  It is clearly better not to promise, than to break a promise made to God.  

If we extend the application of this passage, we could readily include promises we make to each other.  In the Psalms we read that God looks favourably on someone: ‘… who keeps an oath when it hurts, and does not change their mind’ (Psalm 15:4b).  This would mean that when we promise to do anything we should keep our word, rather than looking for a way out of keeping our promise.  The psalmist is not just referring to any promise, but specifically to a promise that may cost us something to fulfuil.  This might involve a personal cost to us, in terms of time or money.  As Christians we should be known as those who keep their word, even if we later realise that it will cost us to do so.  Thinking about promises we make brought marriage vows (promises) to mind.  Unfortunately we see many in society today who prefer to break the promises made to their spouse, rather than knuckling down and committing themselves fully to their marriage. It is concerning how many Christians embrace the world’s view on marriage and divorce, rather than accepting what God says in the Bible.  The same is also true of some Christians (and their churches) who accept society’s view on co-habiting before marriage.  

Pray:  Father, may we takes our promises to you seriously, so that we do not break our word.  Help us resist the temptation to break our word to others, including when it costs us to fulfil our promises to them.  Amen

Every blessing

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