What Did the Wise Man Mean?
BEING the Creator of heaven and earth, the Most High merits our reverential fear and awe. In a forceful way, King Solomon emphasized this when he wrote: “Guard your feet whenever you go to the house of the true God; and let there be a drawing near to hear, rather than to give a sacrifice as the stupid ones do, for they are not aware of doing what is bad. Do not hurry yourself as regards your mouth; and as for your heart, let it not be hasty to bring forth a word before the true God. For the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. That is why your words should prove to be few.”—Eccl. 5:1, 2.
When it comes to a place of worship, a person should rightly keep in mind where he is going, watching his step. The “house of the true God” surely is no place for morally defiled people or for those having no regard for sacred things. (Ps. 15:1-5) It is a place for “hearing,” that is, paying attention to or obeying divine precepts.
A person should not be like a fool who fails to use his reasoning faculties and chooses a course contrary to God’s commands. The fool may offer a sacrifice as a religious duty or as an outward manifestation of piety. Yet he refuses to recognize that this makes his sacrifice valueless, in fact, detestable to God. Proverbs 21:27 makes this clear: “The sacrifice of the wicked ones is something detestable. How much more so when one brings it along with loose conduct [“vileness at heart,” New English Bible].”
On account of God’s greatness—for he resides in the highest heavens—a person should also give careful thought to his prayers. The heart, as the organ that motivates, should not be allowed to prompt impulsive, thoughtless words. One should approach God with a full awareness of his majesty and dignity and not carelessly ramble on when praying. It is more appropriate to express oneself in few but heartfelt, reverential words.
Fortifying his point with a proverbial saying, Solomon continues: “For a dream certainly comes in because of abundance of occupation, and the voice of a stupid one because of the abundance of words.” (Eccl. 5:3) When a person is needlessly preoccupied with materialistic or ambitious matters that leave the Creator out of the picture, selfish personal dreams result. Such “abundance of occupation” may prompt vain daydreaming and may also occupy the individual’s mind at night, putting him in a dreamy state and depriving him of peaceful sleep. As undue materialistic concerns can give rise to empty dreaming, so endless chattering also brings problems. It does not take long before the chatterer’s voice is shown up to be that of a fool. Very foolish, unbecoming things are almost bound to be said. Hence, there is a need to guard against thoughtless speaking and, as shown earlier, this is especially so in offering prayer.
The caution about thoughtless speaking would certainly apply in making vows. Solomon stated: “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. Why should the true God become indignant on account of your voice and have to wreck the work of your hands?”—Eccl. 5:4-6.
No one is under any obligation to make a vow to God; it is a spontaneous act. That is why there is a need to be very careful not to speak rashly when making a solemn promise to God. Were a person to hesitate to fulfill his vow, he would be acting as a stupid one, that is, one who is morally defective, untrustworthy in word. Careless speaking with the mouth can put the body of flesh under obligation to do something that may be very difficult, leading to a failure to fulfill the vow and thus causing the flesh to sin. Careful forethought to one’s making a vow will prevent rash speaking. There will then be no desire for release from a vow, maintaining that it was a mistake.
Failure to fulfill a vow may have very serious consequences. Jehovah God may become “indignant,” withdrawing his favor and blessing, at least partially. As a result, what the individual may have built up is ‘torn down.’ The psalmist summed up the matter nicely: “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it. Unless Jehovah himself guards the city, it is to no avail that the guard has kept awake.”—Ps. 127:1.
Highlighting what will prevent one’s making such rash vows, Solomon says: “Fear the true God himself.” This means to have an awesome regard for the Creator, not acting in any way to displease him. When such fear is missing, the following statement of King Solomon applies: “For because of abundance of occupation there are dreams, and there are vanities and words in abundance.” (Eccl. 5:7) Yes, undue involvement with nonspiritual things brings about restless dreams of self-interest, disappointment and frustration, “vanities,” and thoughtless speaking before God that may lead to one’s making a rash vow and then failing to fulfill it. So we are wise indeed whenever we do all things out of a proper fear or awe of Jehovah God.