The words of the wise man state: “Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter any thing before God,” (Ecc.5: 2). Jesus said “Let your words be ‘yes, yes and no, no;’ anything more is evil” (Mt.5: 37, (Greek). It is simply this: if we promise and cannot deliver, we ask for trouble. In other words, we become a source of evil. And evil results in dire consequences. Politicians do it all the time and so do religious leaders. We make promises to the people that are not in our power to grant. Words can lift people to the gates of heaven, but we lack the ability and resources to unlock the door for them. Consider two examples.
In the Book of Judges, there was a man by the name of Jephthah. He was skilled in warfare and an outcast half-brother to the Gileadites. When the Ammonites oppressed Israel, the Israelites begged Jephthah to be their head. He welcomed the opportunity to be famous and prayed that God would help him defeat the enemy. As a token of victory, he vowed to sacrifice on the altar of fire the first thing that would come out of his house to welcome him back. The first that came out of his house was his only daughter and his hasty words cost him his only child (Jud.11). Jephthah did not have Solomon to advise him. Ecclesiastes declared such vows as foolish (5: 2-7). Jesus regarded such promises as evil. How many false sacrifices have our leaders made to stay in power, like abortion?
In the Book of Acts, a Jewish chief priest Sceva had seven sons. These men attempted to imitate Paul the Apostle by casting out demons and healing the sick. Like Paul, they called on the name of Jesus. Apparently they were doing all right until they happened to come upon a real crazy man. The maniac overpowered them, beat them severely, stripped them naked and chased them out of his house. He said to them, “I know about Paul and about Jesus, but who are you?” (Ac.19: 13-16). What has this story to do with us? Are we not like the seven brothers big on words and promises but weak on actions because we do not have the resources to solve everybody’s problem? Perhaps we ought to echo the words of President Kennedy: “Ask not what America can do for you, ask what you can do for America.”