Many people often find themselves tied up in knots after failing to honour pledges (vows/oaths) they would have made in church.
When you make a pledge, say, to partner financially with a ministry project, you commit yourself to do something, and this is often done in the excitement of the moment, or fervour of the spirit, without you thinking through the commitment you are making.
I appreciate that sometimes preachers encourage their congregants to pledge.
Sometimes a message on giving can be so fiery that you find yourself making that pledge after your emotions have been whipped up.
But remember, giving is about faith, not emotions.
Never make a commitment you cannot meet.
James 5:12, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath (pledge).
But let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’, ‘no’, lest you fall into judgment.”
This is serious.
Yes, it is good for people to give regularly and in a disciplined fashion, but never make a pledge under pressure.
Never feel compelled to give when you know that at your level of faith, it will be way out of your depth.
The clear principle of biblical giving is that it should be voluntary and not under compulsion.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
When you make your pledge, is it a decision you have made in your heart, or it’s simply because the preacher has whipped your emotions into a frenzy? It’s important to consider this.
Do you know some people pledge to give something they cannot afford to give simply because they are a cell leader? Or the head of the women’s ministry or hold some other leadership position in church?
It is also possible that you can make a pledge to please your pastor, or your cell group members or fellow believers in your assembly. Never, ever, make a pledge to please people.
Operate within your faith limits.
If you have to make a pledge, do it because you know you will get the money. Romans 12:6, 8, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith…Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity…”
Paul is saying whatever you do in the house of God, do it according to the level of your faith.
Yes, you can hope to get the money. But it is just hope.
It can be dashed. And what will you do? It can be foolishness. Proverbs 17:18, “A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.”
Jesus was clear that never make a pledge you will not be able to fulfil.
Matthew 5:33-37, “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath [pledge], but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’
But I tell you, Do not swear [pledge] at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.
Simply let your “yes” be “yes”and your “no”, “no”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Some pledges we make end up tying us up to commitments we are unable to see through.
You would rather not pledge at all.
It’s no sin to say when I get the money, I will bring it to the house of the Lord.
Take note that something unforeseen can happen and make it impossible for you to fulfil your pledge. Leviticus 5:4, “Or if a person thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil— in any matter one might carelessly swear about — even though he is unaware of it, in any case when he learns of it he will be guilty.”
We also learn from the scriptures never to make hasty pledges. Think through your pledge before you make that commitment.
Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Keep your foot [give your mind to what you are doing] when you go [as Jacob to sacred Bethel] to the house of God.
For to draw near to hear and obey is better than to give the sacrifice of fools [carelessly, irreverently] too ignorant to know that they are doing evil.”
The Bible describes giving under compulsion as “the sacrifice of fools”.
In verse 2, we are warned against being hasty in making pledges.
“Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.”
In verse 4, we are sternly warned that the moment you make a pledge, you are bound until you fulfil that pledge.
“When you vow a vow or make a pledge to God, do not put off paying it; for God has no pleasure in fools (those who witlessly mock Him). Pay what you vow.”
Many believers have realised too late that they had made a mistake after pledging. But that simply shows a lack of reverence for God and the things of God. Consider verses 6-7.
As the scriptures have shown, you would rather not pledge than pledge and fail to honour your pledge. It is better not to pledge but give, than to pledge and not give.
l Phillip Chidavaenzi is the author of several books including Walking in the Spirit (2017) and Give Me Souls, Or I Die (2018).