Church Vows or Marriage Vows: Which is more important?
By Paul Miller
November 1, 2018
Some time ago, a preacher in the Amish church left the culture with his wife and children. Not long after they left, the former preacher’s siblings and church came to visit the family. They made one thing clear to the husband: your vow to the church is more binding than your vow to your spouse on your wedding day. The siblings and church continued to pressure the husband (and father) to separate himself from his wife and children, take up his church vow, and come back to the Amish.
Today, the husband lives with the Amish in Ohio, and the wife and children live with the English in Wisconsin.
Sadly, this is happening more and more. Therefore, we decided to take some time to discuss these two main vows.
Certainly, vows are important. God tells us to keep our word. However, God looks at the heart, too. Remember Jephthah’s vow (Judges 11)? It seems that he ended up sacrificing his daughter. Was that a good vow to make? Would God have been angry, or would He have been pleased if Jephthah repented of his hurried vow and did not sacrifice his daughter to God?
What if you made a vow to God that you would kill your firstborn son if He did what you wanted? Would God be pleased if you kept that vow? What if, instead, you realized that your vow was against the will and Word of God, and you asked forgiveness from God for making such a vow, rather than sinning against Him by keeping your vow? If you think that you will be sinning by keeping your vow, but also sinning by not keeping your vow, why not avoid doing that which you know would be wrong in order to seek the grace and mercy of God and His forgiveness?
What if Jephthah had gone to God and begged God to forgive Him for His hasty vow, admitting that the vow He made was not good and that he would be sinning if he kept his vow?
Remember when forty Jews made a vow that they would not eat or drink until they had killed the apostle Paul? Would God have been pleased with them if they had kept their vow? How much better would it have been if they had trusted in Jesus, realized that the vow was wrong and that they would be sinning to keep their vow, and sought God’s mercy and forgiveness? Do you really think that God would have wanted them to keep their vow and kill Paul rather than turn from their sin and not murder Paul?
Paul’s nephew told the chief captain, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would enquire somewhat of him more perfectly. But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee (Acts 23:20-21).
Remember when Saul made a vow when he was chasing his enemies? He said that anyone who eats before the evening will be put to death (1 Samuel 14:24). Saul’s son, Jonathan, did not hear what his father had said, and he ate some honey. When Saul found out that Jonathan had eaten some honey, Saul was going to keep his word and put his son to death. The people, though, saved Jonathan from death, realizing the sin and foolishness of keeping such a vow that was not pleasing to God, who had given them victory.
What if you make a vow to get revenge on someone? Will God be pleased if you keep your vow and burn his house down, or if you repent of your sinful vow and love your neighbor? Legalism and law say to keep your vow. Love and mercy say to repent.
What if you made a vow to never pray or read the Bible? Would God be pleased if you kept your vow and went to hell, or would He be pleased if you repented of such a foolish vow, cried out to God, and began a real relationship with Him that included praying and reading His Word?
I have heard of some people who have made a vow to stay in a certain church. That is not necessarily a sinful vow, but what if one later realizes that such a vow will keep him from following Jesus? Would it not be far better to confess the error of making such a vow, preferring instead to follow Jesus fully and faithfully? Would it not be love for family members and church members to allow the person the freedom to follow Jesus rather than be bound in legalism and not able to follow Jesus? The Pharisees kept the law, but they were condemned by Jesus for forgetting about the bigger parts of the law, such as justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23).
What if you make two separate vows that contradict each other? How can you keep both? What if you make a vow to marry one person, then foolishly make a vow to marry someone else? Will you demand that the person marry both people in order to keep his vow? Instead, reasonable people would realize the foolishness of such a vow and the sinfulness of keeping both vows.
I have heard of some people who have made a vow to be faithful to a certain church. Maybe we should not make such vows, but rather pledge our allegiance to Jesus, wherever He may lead us, vowing instead to faithfully and fully follow Him and His Word. However, some people make vows to be faithful to their church. Then, the same person gets married and makes a vow to be faithful to his wife and provide for her and love her.
What should he do, then, if he later is born again and realizes that he cannot follow God by staying bound to a church that does not give him freedom to follow Jesus and read His Word? What if the husband and wife and children all trust in Jesus and realize that before they made a vow to follow a church and church rules, but now they made a vow to follow Jesus and the Word of God? Certainly, the vow to follow Jesus and His Word is a more biblical vow.
Sometimes in these situations, though, church leaders or legalistic family members will make the demand that if his wife and children want to leave the church, he should let them leave and return to the church. Sadly, the threats, legalistic guilt, and intimidation work; the family separates, the husband returns to the church, and the church leaders are content. What a sad and sinful situation!
Did not the same man make a vow to provide for and protect his wife and to love her as Jesus loved the church (not a denomination, but all true believers) and gave Himself for it? If the man then fails to keep his vow to take care of his wife and children, God says that he is worse than an infidel! God says that not providing for your family is the same as denying faith in Him! But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8).
How much better it is in God’s sight for a family to follow Jesus together in a different church than to have the man leave his spouse, deny Jesus, and follow legalism and rules!
A vow is a serious thing, but if we sin by keeping that vow, how can that please God? If we encourage others to keep their vow and sin, then we do not please God, either. Let us, then, be sure that we are following Jesus, realizing that God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness can cleanse us from all sin—even from that of not keeping a vow that we should not have made or that we later realized that we could not keep and still follow Him!comments powered by Disqus« Back to Articles