LET'S MAKE A DEAL: To Vow or Not to Vow?

How should a Christian understand the practice of making vows? Should you do it? Why or why not? Join us in the Link as Fr. Michael Sorial challenges the construct of vow making based on the teaching of Jesus Christ in the sermon on the Mount.


so if you're familiar with the show let's make a deal back in the 1960s is when it first started really like it was such a fun show to watch all right and one of the really neat things is you could if you a game for those who don't know the show your again it was a game show and a contestant would have like a certain they might have one like a couple hundred dollars and the person who was like the host would say well for two hundred fifty dollars would you give that up and choose behind one of these doors not knowing what's going to come alright and so today we're going to be talking about that where we might be willing to give something up not knowing what might come about it might be sometimes and let's make a deal might be a car sometimes might be dummy all right you just never you what to expect the reason why we're discussing this is because over the last number of years I've heard people say things like God if you get me out of this mess I'll go to church every day for the rest of my life God if you bless my children in marriage I will come in this amount of my god if you or shade so so if you give me a child I will commit this child and I will give this back to you into your drink all right so that's what we're going to be talking about this morning but I want to frame it first with in a biblical understanding of the what is about where do we get this word and what is it first used all right so just going to give you the the root of the words we're going to look at the Greek the Hebrew and the Latin origin the word vow it's the Greek word hot tub which is a votive offerings okay or a motive offering it's where we get the word votive candles okay it's something that's offered as a sacrifice for something that one has been granted whatever work perhaps not been granted okay in Arabic which is the same actually Hebrew which is the same as in Arabic since their Semitic languages it's the the word nether or net sometimes the zune that word is basically a thing that is promised a thing that is promised and finally in the Latin it's the word ex voto again sounds like motive okay the voter cannot refers to those things that are vowed or dedicated to God so it might be something in the church that is dedicated to God it might be us as Christians that have been vowed or dedicated to God in the liturgical expression of the Coptic Church you find the word fouls actually mentioned twice at least they're mentioned in Arabic okay now the interesting thing in the litany of the oblations which is early on Sunday morning okay that's before many people might show up the word in Arabic muzu is actually written right there in the text the very interesting thing is there's no Coptic equivalents of that word it doesn't exist in the coptic language okay the other place that you find it liturgical e speaking of the the life of worship of the church is during Holy Week or best helping at the end of the bestest service during the lid knees you find out where valve is also mentioned and the other interesting thing I'll just highlight is those litanies the daytime and nighttime these for those who are familiar with the pasta service they were not introduced until sometime after the late 1800s okay so just just to put some some of it in mind I know people have said but it's we find it in the liturgy and we find it here we find in this service it's important to understand when these things were introduced and to re properly appropriate them and understand them based on what we're about to look at now which is an early Christian understanding and a biblical context for this concept now the one confession is i did so much research is fine which of the church fathers has written about vows or the jewelry or Tama and I could find hardly anything and really nothing that was a value or if substance to our discussion today which tells me that they didn't necessarily have some of the concepts that some of us carry today all right now what I'm going to help you do is understand biblically there are four ways that the word vows are broken down so all vowels are not created equally in other words okay when we say the word vow it's very important that we understand what what it is that we mean and what it is that the scripture is actually teaching us or saying about this idea the first way that the word vow is user the first category is a commitment it's a commitment that is made to God or to someone else in Baptism we commit ourselves to Christ we say I accept you oh Christ my god we are making a vow if you will that we are renouncing Satan and that we are walking with Christ that is a personal commitment that we are making to God someone mentioned it during the discussion section that in marriage we make a vow work receive a commandment that we commit ourselves to husbands we commit ourselves with ourselves to love our wives as Christ loved the church and wives you are found yourself committing yourself to reverence and respect your husband just as the church does with Christ in monasticism there's various forms of commitments that but at six take some take the vow up while they all take the vow of celibacy some take the vow of silence of service of poverty and there's a an abundance of monastic traditions out there in Christianity now the one thing that it's important understand here is that this is this kind of a vow is not a vow to receive something from God in exchange for something else it's the way that you've described it that it is something that I know I should be doing and so I'm vowing myself to do that thing okay it's a commitment that I have made in the Old Testament we find in numbers chapter 6 the idea of Val a vow and this is specifically the Nezzer etic vow that we then find actually in the book of Acts let's just read it together says the Lord spoke to Moses saying speak to the children is your own say to them when either a man or a woman consecrates an offering to take the value of a Nazarite to separate himself to the Lord they shall separate shall separate himself from wine and similar drink she'll drink neither vinegar made from wine northen made from similar drink neither shall I drink any grape juice nor eat fresh grapes or raisins there's also a layer of non cutting hair or shaving so this is a Nazarite without a commitment that one says I am consecrating myself to God for this specific reason now in Acts chapter 18 I believe its Acts chapter 21 also you find that people within the book of Acts are also taking this nazaret eval and acts 18 18 it says so Paul still remained a good while then he took the leave of the brother in sales for Syria and priscilla and aquila with him he had his hair cut off at Centurio for he had taken a vow okay so there's this idea of either cutting or not cutting that is part of this naza riddick valve that Paul the Apostle takes in Acts chapter 18 the second type of vow if you will the second category is a thanksgiving for an already answered prayed okay so in other words i have traits or something god please help you in the situation please God help me have victory over this sin please God like help my child in the way that Saint Monica prayed for seen obviously perhaps or that many of us are moms and dads pray for us and we were far from God and the prayer is answered and so now that a prayer has been answered a person says as a result of that I'm giving things together okay I'm giving things to go and we find that actually in Psalm 116 psalm 116 sorry says in verse 12 to 14 it says what shall i render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me hey he's been praying for salvation I will take up the cup of salvation and calm and even the Lord I will pay my vows to the Lord now the presence of all people I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call upon the name Lord I've been praying for salvation God has saved me from my enemies Old Testament enemies were other nations and the New Testament enemies are deaf and sin and safe and we have been saved and as a result of that answer prayer of thanksgiving offering is given the third type about is a thanksgiving from a bow bow for blessings not asked for so a blessing has been given perhaps I didn't even know I didn't even think about it a door was open that I never thought about never considered and my response is one of celebration I just want to get things together for both the second of the third of these two categories this is where we get the idea of the in the Old Testament the idea of the four mana pesticides what it's called for the Passover sacrifice it was a sacrifice that was offered as a Thanksgiving Titans it's what we do with the Eucharist after I stay it literally means to give things we are giving things unto god for the salvation that we have received whether we asked for it you sought it or we didn't okay it is a form of giving of thanks to God it's where crisis says freely you have received freely give I was given something I didn't ask for i received it and i'm just giving things okay I God has blessed me or something and i am going to bless him and his people or something perhaps you were blessed with a job you didn't even seek you didn't know you didn't even think about it and you got this huge massive promotion and you're like so there God open this door and your response to that I didn't ask for this yeah but I've been so blessed and I want to offer of myself to God the fourth category the fourth category is the last category that I think there's some confusion on out there category forum is a dedication and exchange for a hoped-for miracle or outcome and this is the type of valve that is spoken about in the New Testament within a problematic under the problematic understanding that's that's where we're going to spend most of the time talking about today in other words this is a time where there are actions or material things that are vowed to God or to a saints okay for their intercession with God in return for something this is an orthodox version of prosperity gospel okay God I will follow you if you bless me I will follow you if you give me this job God you give me this it's all about prosperity it's all about financial and social prosperity okay and as much as we want to come down on the prosperity gospel out there we have to be honest with ourselves when we embrace a layer of it within our own tradition this was a common practice in the ancient world okay this we get we see this in the semitic world both of the Hebrew enemy Alexandria traditions in this book called the religion and ink should be an ancient Egypt we find the following says an extension of these practices is seen in the presentation of a personal gift to the God we're now talking about the during the pharaonic times okay by worshiper who hold you secure a benefit such gifts were private votive offerings hey so this is a practice that is within the history of Egypt with in the history of Israel with the Ministry of the somatic world and you might say but but we find it back then sure but we're going to look at what our Lord had to say about it because he actually addresses this in Genesis chapter 28 verse 22 21 we read also that it says then Jacob made a vow saying if God will be with me and keep me in this way that I'm going and give me bread to eat clothes put on so that I come back to my father's house in peace then the Lord shall be my god okay in other words God if you do all these things for me then I'll worship Me you'll be my god okay now if you and I heard that today we would be like blowing when we were like what do you mean you're going to trade things and other in order to worship God now the important thing meth understand and frame for Jacob and for the people in ancient Egypt from the previous text is that there was still something being worked out history in the relationship of God and man that was crystallized and solidified in the incarnation of Jesus Christ okay they did not have the full picture so there was still something being developed so people look back and say but Jacob did it you're absolutely right but Jacob didn't experience God heaven on earth in God in the flesh okay there was still some quite a bit of distortion in the Old Testament as to who God is that Jesus then comes and says you know was written what I see and he does that a number of times in the Sermon on the map and one of those situations is actually related to vowels in judges chapter 11 one of the judges his name is Jeff thumb we're going to read his portion of the text related to now Jeff just like the other judges was trying to secure salvation from the enemies of Israel and this is what we find happened says the Spirit of the Lord came upon shift up he passed through Gilly Adam and nessa pass through these other places and he advanced towards the people of a lawn and in verse 30 and jeff levine to the Lord and said if you will indeed deliver the people of a bone it's my men's then it will be that whatever comes on my doors of my house to meet me when I returning piece from the people of a bond shall surely rewards and I will offer it up as a burnt sacrifice this sounds like a great idea I kind of equate this to the contemporary practice of the tool bag that we as come sometimes fall engine God if you do this then whatever this thing maybe omniauth all yours okay now the way it is sometimes look looks within an hour tradition is we sometimes think in terms of st. specialists st. specials will I be okay there are certain space things that are specializing and doing certain things in our minds okay example if you lost an item i bought the main guy was ebbing over apparently that's updated a bonus so if you've lost something oh okay good so people look like they can ask this date and Bill hook it up for you and then once you do that you go here something to the monastery or the church and that name okay if you want to have a child st. Moritz hing Farina writes a prenup am I right on it i I didn't pray I don't know that so much if there's a general issue the first response we talk about first responders last week 911 right our first responder is any good stage or to God Mike you mind you if you have and this is important in Egypt especially because in Egypt the sun's go to the military right and so if you don't want your son's going to military which is compulsory you go to st. George and he'll hook something up and then once he does you need to go and hook something up back and keep your end of the bargain for school exams it was pokharel you have a problem right above us and popcorn us will tell you what's going on over the book pop and you're good you know what is it you're sick and there's no cure that can be found wooden hop on it was fate why that he's out spending to two swords right pull up a chair Margaret is his name he has two swords and just like a surgeon would slice and dice he's going to slice it up no surgeon no don't worry about me hey today we continue to like see if there's a family crisis issue have no fear call up st. abouna Michael and he will be all right we have this concept that just pick up the proverbial phone n whatever the problem is we have a specialist who will take care of these issues now the problem way to engage with the saints that I'm not suggesting that we don't engage with his aides and further more than the Saints don't engage with this rule we believe the opposite by the way that Satan plays within the material world hey it's safe in the Divas limit in the material world then we have to accept that God and the saints and angels our president also engaging in the material world the important thing that we need to realize about this is a couple of couple of points number one is these things often times when God and and like the the spirit world are engaging with us these things are not to be given up for public consumption okay these are oftentimes very personal changes that God has dealt with me beautifully graciously and it's not something that is to be displayed out there and in fact one of the things that you find within our tradition is if there's a miracle that's taking place that's happening the church always goes to it and it's a very public miracle the church goes to investigate it and make sure that that's not a trick from the devil because sometimes those things like for instance there's like if there's a picture that's dripping and people are leaving liturgy and worship and eucharist to go to that that might be a work of the devil okay so we need to understand it appropriately the other thing the other thing I'm not saying that it is but that's why the church investigates it to make sure the other thing that we need to acknowledge is that the goal of these things and how God and the spirit world works with us is that the goal is salvation not the task itself so some people might say well why did that person pray to God and ask for the intercession missing and he intervened in that perspective on my life well it might be that that thing was necessary for their salvation and likewise for me it's necessary for me not to receive what I asked for for my salvation first Timothy 24 tells clearly God's desire his goal for us is that all men would be saved and come to the knowledge of truth his goal for me is not prosperity it's not financial prosperity it's not that i would have 14 kids god for a bit no i mean they're they're lies again it's not that would be a multi-million it's not those things his goal his purpose for me is salvation I want to go back to Jeff because if you remember Jeff though he had that very beautiful prayer God what it bless me and whatever walks through my door offering it to as a burnt sacrifice what walked through this door his daughter he began to weep he began to mourn maybe he was hoping it would be a sheep maybe he was hoping her being his wife or his mother-in-law who knows but his daughter walk through and he was distraught and so we redid judges 11 39 40 and so was the end of two months that she returned so she basically said let me like we can't not fulfill this family because otherwise enemies will come in to destroy us so let me go and just pray with my sisters and whatnot come back at the end she was given up as a burnt sacrifice this is actually a very sad sad story and it tells us at the very end in verse 40 that the daughters of Israel went four days each year every year they would go ahead they would love that they would weep for the daughter of jaffna the gilead nights I think it's quite possible that when Jesus in Matthew chapter five is talking about vows that he's talking about it in light of the daughter of general okay again you have heard that it was said to those of old you shall not swear falsely but shall perform your host to the Lord but I came to you I say to you do not swear don't swear it all and he goes on listen Jesus who else can say it was once said but I say Dukes have forgot himself in flesh and God is telling us yes it was said but I've come to correct the proper way to practice the proper way to worship prompting understanding of who God is but I swear say you do not swear it all under my heaven it's God's throne or by earth don't swear by heaven don't swear by money doe swear by irnos her by your children like I swear on my children's up no no like no we don't swear on any of that he says don't don't I'm giving you a new commandment that's the teaching of Jesus last week we talked about how Jesus the truth came in order to correct our worship that's why he says but I think you do not swear at all I'm going to close up here with just five final quick polls number one it's very important that especially with in that fourth category that we've been talking about to not make vows the principle here is clear for Christians do not make valves either to the Lord or 20 okay we don't make vows in that fourth category God if you do this then we don't do that okay the scripture crisis is so clear on that if you want to talk about the first three editors and apps like yes I commit myself to God I'm committing myself god I'm making you I'm yours I belong to you my life is yours I without ourselves to our spouses we take those things very seriously if God has blessed us we give thanks to him whether we ask for it or not we found these say God thank you for blessing me didn't even ask for maybe we did say God thank you and we just want to commit something to him we want to give it as a thanksgiving to them but then that final category this is doping thousand that area right the second area second thing is in addition that this is seen somewhat as a bargain with God please help with my exam and I will bring to you a thousand dollars I think forgive me this is not only denigrating to God but it it shrinks us down as persons created in the image of God it's dedicated not only to him but his image on earth number three you may be able unable to know for sure if you are able to keep the thousand that's something that you said we don't know what's coming tomorrow we don't know we are prone to errors in our judgments there have been times when I was younger and still happens today and it will probably happen for the rest of my life that I will have a lapse of judgment we get excited about things we say God if you do this and we're so excited we are so sincere about it but sometimes we lag proper judgment when it comes to that that's part of our fallen human nature we don't know what the future will bring st. James says it is the fourth chapter is a pistol where whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow for what's your life it's what your life what's your life it's like a bigger it's like a like we don't know those we don't know the fourth thing important is that we need to learn to trust God making thousands in that forum category I think shows a lack of trust to God I don't mean to be offensive here but some in some ways it shows a level of spiritual immaturity not willing to wait on God to provide for us what is necessary and it also removes an our own understanding of our free will to pursue what is good and holy in the sight of God fifth and final is when we asked for something simply asked with a pure heart the heavenly realm is not in need of our material needs some part of our material goods rather hey just asking if your honor just ask God please bless me with this if this is from you God please bless me God does it he doesn't mean our money he doesn't need our goal he doesn't need our he doesn't need those things when we asked for the pure heart and sometimes the answer by the way is to know and we feel that that's a god-given answer you may still be moved to say God thank you for saying no to you and as a result you say what shall i render too late what can I give you thank you for saying no to thank you pretty Angeles temple I asked him something that was just dumb and would have messed me up thank you for saying though what about if we have broken vows someone asked that question and I think you said it nicely and writing in Ecclesiastes 54 it says when you make about of god they're not delay or pay it free has no pleasure fools paid like you know about and in Deuteronomy 23 23 it also says verse 22 exercise but if you have saved from bowing it shall not be sent you abstain from about me not ascend to you that which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform for your voluntary voluntarily vow to the Lord your God put your promise with your help if you have offered something a valve in the past and it is something that you shouldn't do or can't do I believe just like the rest of sin we confess it to come we confess it to God we though foolish we may have found something foolish me and realize that we couldn't do it but we have the other said that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins okay and if you want to make a vow now that you have in development okay now that you will have that try to interact with God in that way but it close with this final image of those okay and this is I think the most beautiful ballad she the most beautiful image of commitment that we find in Scripture God promised us his greatest promise is I'm with you always I'm with you the most beautiful promise the greatest promise in all of Scripture I am with you always our response our commitment to his presence with us is fulfilling the great command not as this obligatory rule but as a what shall i render to you Lord for your being with me we love the Lord our God for heart mind soul and strength and we love our neighbors as ourselves that's the exchange of vows God says I'm with you and you say God I'm with you and I'm with your people all right let me close with that