my word is my promise

my word is my promise


Matthew 5:33-37
Just say a simple, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.” Anything beyond this is from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).


Read Matthew 26:63-64 to see how Jesus responded in court. How should you live out your faith in a litigious society?


When are you most tempted to forget your vows or promises? What have you promised to do that you haven’t done? Why?

As an author, I’ve signed a few contracts. I’ve asked others to sign them too. What I dislike most about contracts is their endless clauses, spelled out in detailed legal jargon. It’s a litigious age. We’ve all heard of opportunistic folks, with well-paid lawyers, who find legal loopholes in such documents and cash in. So our contracts get longer and longer.

I was working on a book of interviews once. The legal advice had been to have each interviewee sign a contract confirming their participation in the book. All of them did—except one. “My word is my promise,” he emailed back, causing great consternation to my management. But we took him at his word.

A vow in Old Testament times was a promise made before God that had to be fulfilled (Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21). The Pharisees, however, came up with ingenious ways of slipping through the loopholes of such promises. For them, it all came down to the formula you used when you made your vow. A vow sworn by “the temple” could be broken, but not one sworn by the temple’s gold (Matthew 23:16-17). A vow sworn by “the altar” wasn’t binding, but one sworn by the gift on the altar was (Matthew 23:18-22). A simple vow could be forgotten, but a vow made to “the Lord” had to be kept (Matthew 5:33).

Jesus would have none of it.

Whether you swore by the temple, the altar, heaven, or earth, it didn’t matter. Since all of these were God’s, all vows were made to God (Matthew 5:34-35). In fact, to Jesus any vow was problematic. “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t,’” he taught. Anything else was formula-making, which allowed promise-breaking.

“My word is my promise,” said my interviewee. So far, he’s stayed true to his word. Jesus would be pleased.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Genesis 2:15–3:24

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8 Responses to “my word is my promise”

  1. Gene says:

    For me, the temptation comes when there is no accountability. We are ultimately held accountable to God for our promises and He sees all (Ps 139:1). Yet it helps when a friend, spouse, or mentor cares enough to ask the tough questions. Thanks, Sheridan, for the topic and the challenging question.

    • tom felten says:

      Thanks for sharing, Gene. Yes, it can be easy to break vows when we think no one is aware. But God is all-knowing and always present. The conviction of the Holy Spirit should keep us keeping those vows!

      • roxanne robbins says:

        The Lord wants us to glorify Him by letting our “yes be yes” and our “no be no.” He also wants us to avoid relational strife by staying true to our word.

      • Accountability is important. And sometimes so is simply remembering! I find that my promises or decisions always have more effect for me personally when I a) write them in my journal b) share them with someone else.

    • Tom Kopper says:

      ” ‘I’t can be easy to break vows when we think no one is aware. But God is all-knowing and always present. Unfortunitly, there are many people in places to serve us, who gets to ‘high’ to think they are above the [L] aw. For, ” the temptation comes when there is no accountability.” “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

  2. winn collier says:

    I knew an older gentleman who lived this way, wouldn’t sign a contract and considered a handshake and his word to seal the deal. I love that way, that integrity.

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