Making Promises is a Serious Matter
By Carlton Foster – March 21, 2023
The act of making promises is a serious matter. Fulfilling or not fulfilling a promise sends serious positive or negative physiological and biological movements in the minds and bodies of the intended recipient. A commitment to do well sends a motivating affirmation to the recipient and gives them hope and stronger faith for the fulfillment of that promise. The opposite is also true: fearful prophecies, promises, or threats send a frightening feeling to the recipient as they wait for the fulfillment of that threat or dreadful prophecy.
The Bible has many promises that God made to people. In Genesis 15, God gave Abraham several promises: “Sometime later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great. (Gen 15:1 NLT)'” Again God said, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.’ Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, ‘Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!’ (Gen 15:4-5)” Jesus also gave promises, as recorded in John 14, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going (John 14:1-5 NLT).” And in verse 6, he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” These good promises motivated Abraham, who eventually got a son from his wife; the fulfillment gave him strong faith to believe in future promises. The disciples were also motivated to look for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise.
Unfortunately, God also gave Abraham some fearful promises. He said, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years (Gen 15:13 NLT).” This prophecy would send a trilling fear in Abraham’s mind. Jesus also gave some trilling promises of the fulfillment of prophecy. When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world? (Matthew 24: 3 NLT)”
Jesus said, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:4-12 NLT).”
When we hear these promises or predictions, they send biological movements in our bodies and cause our neurons and nervous systems to react positively if it’s a good promise or reacts negatively if it is a fearful one. When a good promise is fulfilled, the recipients feel good; they are elated, and the trustworthiness increases towards the promise-keeper. They will be more confident in future promises coming from this person. They will be happy, and the Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dried up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22 KJV)” So making promises is a serious phenomenon.
Now let’s look at a broken good promise. If our hopes were centered on hearing the good promise, but in the end was not fulfilled, we would slowly lose faith in future promises, and negative emotions would set in and hurt our health. Broken promises are destructive. This is why the Prophets of old are careful not to give false promises. The Bible also said people who often break promises would not go to heaven when Jesus comes. Timothy called them ‘truce breakers’ or ‘covenant breakers.’ He said in 2 Timothy 3, “This also knows, that in the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Tim 3:1-4 KJV).”
If you are a person who makes promises and doesn’t typically fulfill them, then you are setting a very bad precedence for your character and future stake in entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. People will see you as not trustworthy. Your words will have less meaning when making a decision you suggested.
Humans can hardly predict future activities for certainty; therefore, Jesus cautioned us; he said, “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one (Matthew 5:33-37 NLT).” If you are about to make a promise to someone, consider what Jesus said and asses if you can undoubtedly fulfill that promise. Consider the many marriage vows that are broken and end up in divorce. Some people acknowledged this statement from Jesus and usually ended their promise statement with “… if the Lord will,” which is putting the fulfillment conditional to the will of the Lord. Fulfilled promises are a blessing to the recipients as well as the promise-maker. So it is crucial NOT to make promises that you cannot fulfill.