After yet another disappointing round with your teenager over the same old issues, you find yourself weirdly acting and behaving like your parents. Shocked by the realization that you might be turning into the very parent you swore you would never become, you become frustrated and feel guilty. But where is this guilt coming from? Acting like your parents in and of itself should not produce guilt so why do you feel guilty?
Tucked away in the laws of Leviticus are two small verses which explain this guilty feeling. Leviticus 5:4-5 reads, “‘Or suppose you make a foolish vow of any kind, whether its purpose is for good or for bad. When you realize its foolishness, you must admit your guilt. When you become aware of your guilt in any of these ways, you must confess your sin.'”
While it may not seem like a big vow, “I’ll never act like my parents” and is more reactionary than intentional, it is a vow made to yourself nonetheless. It really makes no difference if the vow is made to another person or made to yourself, it is still binding. And whether or not you consciously remember making the vow is really irrelevant because at an unconscious level, you do remember it and are still holding yourself accountable. Otherwise, you would not feel guilty.
So now what. When you realize that the vow is foolish, you must acknowledge the foolishness, admit you are breaking the vow, ask for forgiveness, and decide not to do it again. But be careful or you might be tempted to make yet another vow that you will “never do this again”. Instead, follow Jesus’ advice in Matthew 5:33-37.
“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”
Rather than making another vow about making a vow, just say to yourself “I won’t do this”. Better yet, take a few moments to recall all of the times you have said, “I swear to God” or “I’ll never” and ask for forgiveness for your foolishness in making the vow in the first place. While your intentions may have been good at the time, remember the verse above about vows being made for both good and bad purposes, your inability to carry out the vow will result in feelings of guilt and remorse.
Once forgiven, view the vow as broken and allow God’s mercy to release you from its’ chains. This loving gift from God of freedom from our sins and our guilt is liberating and comes only from a belief in Jesus Christ. He did not intend for us to be free just from the “big sins” in our life, but also from the little vows that we make which bind us unintentionally. Spend some time in prayer this morning and get free.