Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 – “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed — 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” NKJV
Have you ever attempted to bargain with God to get something you wanted? Most have, even if we are hesitant to admit it. It is utter foolishness to do so, but most continue to do so not realizing that the attempt to “bargain” relegates God to the status of a pagan god in a very real sense. The followers of those gods and/or religions believe that it is through their sacrificial offerings they move the heart and hand of their god, thus effecting a bargain, negotiation, or deal to get what they want.
I have heard people promise incredible things to God, “if only” He would do what they were asking and then when time to pay the vow comes, they renege realizing the incredibleness of how their mouth overloaded their lives. Remember Psalm 50, God speaks through the Psalmist declaring that He will not be negotiated with and does not need our petty offerings because He owns it all, created it all, and Lord of it all. I have heard teenagers promise God incredible things “if only” He would cause that special guy or girl to notice, like, and/or love them. I’ve heard incredible promises “if only” God would grant a petition such as a raise, a new house, a new car, a new job, healing, etc. I prayed with a man once who was facing some legal issues and he prayed, “Lord if you will keep me out of jail I’ll give 50% of all future income to you.” He didn’t go to jail and did not keep his promise and over time lost everything he had. It is far better to make no promises than to make a promise and fail to keep it, to God or anyone.
Let me take you to a passage that illustrates powerfully the fallacy and foolishness of trying to “bargain” with God and making “rash or foolish vows.” You will probably remember the story in Judges where Jephthah was about to engage the Ammonites in battle and in Judges 11:30 he made an incredible vow to God saying, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” That is incredibly stupid and opens the door to an act that is totally foreign to the biblical teaching and God’s nature. But, the vow or bargaining chip was pushed to the center of the negotiating table.
Although I am 100% convinced that God’s response had nothing to do with the bargain Jephthah attempt to make, he defeated the Ammonites. In that sense, God kept His end of the bargain and when Jephthah returned home jubilant over the victory we find… “…who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her, he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, ‘Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched because I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.” See the problem?
A sidebar that must not be missed is found in his reaction. Notice the emphasis. He says, “Oh! My daughter! YOU have made me miserable and wretched…” He does not take responsibility for the foolishness of his vow and attempted bargain with God but blames her. Isn’t that the way we do it too often? We make a vow to God or attempt to “cut a deal” and when the payment is greater than we realized we seek to blame someone or something else. I can only imagine that he thought what would come out to meet him would be livestock, and that reveals the fallacy of the attempt to “bargain with God”.
A vow such as this is rooted in “distrust” not “faith”. It is relegating God to the level of man and a false belief that we can “buy” what we want from Him. The end of that mentality would be attempting to “purchase” or “earn” our salvation and we know from Scripture that is impossible. Rather than attempt to bribe or bargain God with our petty offerings, why not roll all our care on Him knowing He cares for us? Why not rely on His faithfulness to never leave us nor forsake us? Why not simply trust Him and know that even if we do not receive that for which we desire He will still lead and guide us in the paths of life and toward the ultimate prize.
But, if you are foolish enough to vow a vow to God and what you asked becomes reality, PAY YOUR VOW. May the Lord bless you, guarding and guiding you through your daily journey.