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Should Christians make promises?

A promise is like a vow or pledge to do something or assure that a certain thing will definitely happen. While there's nothing inherently wrong or sinful about making promises, we should be careful about making promises with sinful motivations or promises that we can't or don't intend to keep. The Bible tells us of many promises God made, but His purposes were always good, and He always followed through.

When God Keeps His Promises

After Adam and Eve committed the first sin in the Garden of Eden, enslaving future generations to a sinful nature, God made a covenant with them. A covenant is a special kind of promise based on a personal relationship. He cursed the deceptive serpent and promised to "crush [Satan's] head" with one of Eve's descendants, one who would free all people from their sin (Genesis 3:15). And of course, He followed through by sending His Son, Jesus, as a Savior for the world (1 John 4:14).

Throughout the Old Testament, we find God making covenants with Noah and all the world (Genesis 9:8-17), with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), with the Israelites (Deuteronomy 11 and 30:1-10), with David (2 Samuel 7:8-16), and with future believers in Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Every time, God kept His promises.

God has promised to care for His people (Psalm 9:9-10; Matthew 6:31-33; Romans 8:28), to bless those who come to Him and obey Him (Psalm 37:4; Isaiah 40:31; James 1:5), to grant salvation and forgiveness to those who believe in Jesus and choose to follow Him (John 3:36; Romans 10:9-10; 1 John 1:9), and so many more! Every promise God has made, He has kept.

When We Make Promises

Promises can be beautiful, honorable, beneficial, and a show of love for another person. As believers, when we make promises, we should do the same as when God makes promises—with good intentions and a determination to keep that promise. When we make promises to God, we need to be especially mindful of being true to our word. Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 tells us, "When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin."

Only make a promise after carefully considering what you're saying, determining that your motivations are godly, and if you're certain you'll be able to keep it. Promises can easily be broken if they're made flippantly or with the wrong intentions. And broken promises can lead to broken relationships, hurt feelings, and a sense that the promise-maker is untrustworthy.

Before You Make a Promise...

Before making a promise, vow, pledge, or covenant to God, another person, or even a group of people, take a moment to examine your heart and the situation. Here are some questions you may want to consider before saying "I promise..."

  1. Am I promising something that will end up hurting another person? Jesus says that the second greatest commandment is to love others as we would love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). We should never make a promise that will end up intentionally hurting somebody. Jesus also taught that taking revenge is wrong and that we should, instead, forgive our enemies (Matthew 5:38-40; Matthew 18:21-22).
  2. Do I really mean to keep this promise? Only make promises that you truly intend to keep. Even casually promising someone "I'll pray for you," then neglecting to do so is a broken promise. When speaking of swearing oaths, Jesus said, "Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37). We could definitely apply that principle to making promises.
  3. Have I thought through the consequences of this promise? Sometimes we make promises without truly considering what that promise will mean in the future. If we promise to help a friend move on the same afternoon we've promised to attend a birthday party, then we're guaranteeing to break at least one of those promises. Try not to make flippant promises—especially if you're making them to God. Take a moment to read Judges 11:29-40 and find out what happened to Jephthah's one and only daughter when he made a reckless promise to God in a moment of desperation. Yikes.
  4. Can I guarantee that this promise will be fulfilled? While we may have every intention of doing our part to follow through, if our promise relies on someone else's actions or for some other unknown variable to happen, then there's no way to 100% guarantee that the promise can be fulfilled. To say, "I promise you'll be happy at your new school," is to make a promise you have zero control over. Avoid making promises that you can't be sure to see through.

"Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out." —Proverbs 10:9

When you make promises, do so thoughtfully, with good intentions, and with a determination to follow through on what you have said. God has called us to be truth-tellers, and that goes for our promises too (Acts 24:16; Proverbs 12:22).

TL;DR

While there's nothing inherently wrong or sinful about making promises, we should be careful about making promises with sinful motivations or that we can't or don't intend to keep. Promises can be beautiful, honorable, beneficial, and a show of love for another person. The Bible records many of God's good promises—all of which He kept. When you make promises, do so thoughtfully, with good intentions, and with a determination to follow through on what you've said. God has called us to be truth-tellers, and that goes for our promises too.

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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