Questions From Readers
▪ May a person making a dedication of his life to Jehovah God rightly speak of it as a vow?
Humans who come to love the true God and who determine to serve him completely should dedicate their lives to Jehovah and then be baptized. While the Bible does not use the word “vow” regarding Christian dedication, doing so does not seem to be objectionable.
Aid to Bible Understanding explains that Scripturally a vow is “a solemn promise to perform some act, make some offering or gift, or enter some service or condition; a pledge, either positive or negative.” Some vows of Biblical record involved a pledge to follow a stated course if God first did something. For example, Numbers 21:2 relates: “Consequently Israel made a vow to Jehovah and said: ‘If you will without fail give this people into my hand, I shall also certainly devote their cities to destruction.’” (Genesis 28:20-22; Judges 11:30-39) A Christian’s dedication of his life to God is certainly not such a conditional vow. He does not say, as it were: ‘If you, Jehovah, make me happy and prosperous now and guarantee me everlasting life in the new system of things, I promise to serve you all my life.’
The Bible presents some vows as being unrequested and unsolicited. Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies says of the Hebrew word involved: “[na·daŕ ] to vow, i.e. to promise voluntarily to give or do something; the primary idea is that of setting apart.” So a person voluntarily makes a vow to God. May it thus be reasoned that a person’s becoming a dedicated, baptized disciple of Jesus would not constitute a vow because God now requires dedication of all who want His approval?*
However, the fact that Jehovah has certain requirements in order for an individual to be his friend does not mean that no personal choice is involved. Moses told the Israelites: “I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20; Psalm 15:1-5; compare Joshua 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21.) Recall Jesus’ words: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29) Is that an arbitrary requirement, a demand? Or is it an invitation allowing for voluntary response?
Jesus was born into a nation dedicated to God; many aspects of his life and death were predetermined in prophecy; and God prepared a body for Jesus to sacrifice. Still, Christ’s voluntary decision in presenting himself for special service is reflected in his words: “Then I said, ‘Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-10) In a similar way, each individual has to determine personally to become a dedicated, baptized Christian.
Furthermore, Christians today realize that usage of a word such as “vow” is not limited just to how it was employed in the Bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses have long used “marriage vows” in weddings solemnized at their Kingdom Halls.* This accords with the general meaning of “vow,” as in the definition: “a solemn promise or undertaking, especially in the form of an oath to God.”—Oxford American Dictionary, 1980, page 778.
Consequently, it does not seem necessary to limit the use of the word “vow.” A person who decides to serve God may feel that, for him, his unreserved dedication amounts to a personal vow—a vow of dedication. He ‘solemnly promises or undertakes to do something,’ which is what a vow is. In this case, it is to use his life to serve Jehovah, doing His will faithfully. Such an individual should feel seriously about this. It should be as with the psalmist, who, referring to things that he had vowed, said: “What shall I repay to Jehovah for all his benefits to me? The cup of grand salvation I shall take up, and on the name of Jehovah I shall call. My vows I shall pay to Jehovah.”—Psalm 116:12-14; see also Psalm 50:14.
This was the position taken in The Watchtower of October 1, 1973, page 607.
During a wedding, the bride and groom make a vow to one another, but they are also doing so before witnesses and in God’s sight.