I try not to make many promises to my wife and four boys. That might sound like foolish wisdom from a marriage pastor on how to be a better husband and dad. Today I’ll tell you why in Part 3 of my series on “non-marriage verses” that have most impacted my marriage. While the Bible doesn’t contain many passages that speak directly about marriage, it does contain a whole lot of wisdom on how to treat, love and care for others, including your spouse and kids.
In Part 1, I shared from 1 Timothy 1:15 about the importance of working on the biggest problem in my marriage: me. In Part 2, I talked about the importance of fighting the good fight, finishing the race and being faithful in every season of your marriage.
Today I share from a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. In this famous sermon, Jesus teaches on some major topics such as marriage, divorce, praying, anger and much more. In Matthew 5:33-37 he says the following (focus on v.37):
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
The caption in one of my commentaries on Matthew calls this section, “Oaths are a Poor Substitute for Integrity.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to make an oath or a promise. It’s a lot harder to keep it. For this reason, I have chosen to maintain integrity and not make false and empty promises.
A few months into our marriage when we still lived in Atlanta, I made a promise to Kristen. This was almost 15 years ago, and neither Kristen nor I honestly have any recollection of what the specific promise was even about. All we do remember is that I made a promise and I didn’t keep it. Kristen is about as easy-going of a spouse as you could ever ask or hope for. But, I remember her getting very frustrated with me because I promised something to her and I didn’t keep my promise. Rightly so, she was frustrated at my carelessness and laxity in my words and actions.
Don’t make promises you’re not going to keep.
This was a valuable lesson I learned early on in our marriage. I have since applied the same lesson to my kids. I want to be careful with the promises I make and I don’t want to let my wife and kids down. Do I disappoint my kids at times? Yes. Do I make promises and choose to not keep them or even forget I made them? Yes. But, I am much more careful now to not make promises I know I am not going to be able to keep. I want to let my yes be yes and my no be no.
For example: I am sure many times someone has told you about a tough trial in their life or given you something to pray about. And, you probably tell them what everyone else tells them: “Thanks for sharing. I will pray for you.” But, how often do you actually pray for them? I made the decision to not tell someone I would pray for them unless I knew I actually would keep my promise. Now I write it down or type it in my phone and actually follow through on my promise.
What promises do you want to make? Don’t use this post as an excuse to not work on your marriage! For instance, I have promised to Kristen that I will never divorce her. I have also promised I will be faithful to her. Does this mean I won’t ever struggle again with lust? No. But it does mean I will actively fight to keep her as the #1 standard of beauty in my life. I will actively fight against the temptation to lust or look at porn. But, I still hold to my promise that I will remain faithful to her.
The beautiful thing is we have the example of following our promise-making, promise-keeping God. This song by Passion/Kristian Stanfill reminds me of the example Christians have. When I want to make my yes be yes and my no by no, I know I can look to Jesus as an example on how to make and keep a promise.
- How about you? Are you loose with your promises to your spouse and kids? If so, what can and should you do?
- Ask your spouse how you are doing at holding your promises.
- Look at your marriage vows. How are you doing at keeping your vows?
- Do you need to apologize and ask for forgiveness for falling short?
- Are you disappointed in your spouse for not keeping any promises? If so, how can you communicate that to your spouse in a kind, loving way?
- Here are a few other verses to help you if you want to dive in deeper: 1 John 3:18, James 1:22-24, and James 5:12.
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