Questions From Readers
● Must a person fulfill all vows he made to God prior to becoming a dedicated Christian?—R.J., U.S.A.
Vows are not to be treated lightly, as indicated by the Bible at Ecclesiastes 5:4-6: “Whenever you vow a vow to God, do not hesitate to pay it, for there is no delight in the stupid ones. What you vow, pay. Better is it that you vow not than that you vow and do not pay. Do not allow your mouth to cause your flesh to sin, neither say before the angel that it was a mistake.”
When a person makes a solemn vow to God, he does so voluntarily, not under duress. So there should be a willingness to fulfill the vow. In view of the seriousness of the matter, the Scriptures recommend careful advance consideration of the obligations one would assume upon making a vow. Proverbs 20:25 states: “It is a snare when earthling man has rashly cried out, ‘Holy!’ and after vows he is disposed to make examination.” Hence, vows to God should not be treated lightly but should be the result of careful advance consideration, not mere emotion or momentary enthusiasm.
Marriage vows serve to illustrate these points. A person may decide that he should get married. Entering wedlock is something he does of his own volition. He acts wisely if he gives the matter advance thought, acquainting himself with the responsibilities that will be his upon entering matrimony. Then, when taking the marriage vow before God and human witnesses, he should view the vow seriously and maintain fidelity to his marriage mate. (Matt. 19:4-6) Regardless of who the marrying agent is, if the marriage is legal, his vow is binding upon him, and it continues to be binding when he becomes a dedicated Christian.
An individual may have voluntarily made some other personal vow to God in years past, prior to becoming a dedicated Christian. It was more than a mere desire or plan in his mind or expressed to a friend; it was a solemn vow to God. He was under no compulsion to make the vow. However, now he may desire to be relieved of it. He may ask someone else whether the vow is binding. But it should be realized that another person is in no position to relieve the vower of the responsibility he has taken upon himself as a result of his solemn vow to God. This is a matter between the obligated person and Jehovah God.—Rom. 14:4.
Perhaps the vow was not one required by the Bible. Nevertheless, if it did not conflict with the Scriptures, it would be proper to keep the vow, even if this presents problems in later life.
However, before learning the truth from God’s Word, a person may have made a vow to do something that conflicts with Jehovah’s will. He may become aware of this conflict as he pursues a study of the Bible. What view should he now take of this vow that does not harmonize with God’s will as expressed in the Scriptures? He must decide, but it would be an evidence of faithfulness to Jehovah to act in accord with God’s plainly stated will. This means taking positive steps, such as desisting from practices or breaking off associations that are unclean and improper from God’s standpoint. Such a display of devotion to Jehovah will result in a blessing. (2 Cor. 6:16-18) A person cannot dedicate himself to God through Christ if he does not render such a vow null and void.