Is It Okay to Break Your Vows to God?
At the chat ministry I’m part of, some people have asked whether it’s okay to break our vows to God. According to the Bible, the answer is no; it is sin.
“Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? … He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” (Psalm 15:1,4b)
“Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Matthew 5:33–37)
“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:4–6)
In that passage from Ecclesiastes 5, we can see that breaking vows may bring discipline from God. It doesn’t say the result is hell, but there can be discipline in this life, which is a principle we see in the New Testament, as a consequence of sin (Hebrews 12:5–11).
However, I will give advice for what to do when the vows make life very inconvenient. You can ask God for permission to not follow through, and see how He answers. James 1:5 promises wisdom when we ask; of course, ask in faith that He will answer you. While living our own way and acting in presumption is sin, God is ready to lead us when we seek Him.
Seeking His leading is necessary for major things in life: career, marriage, ministry opportunities, health decisions, etc. I have seen Him answer me in clear ways, by sending confirmations. We have to be willing to seek His will above our own, and keep asking and seeking if the answer is not immediate for major decisions in life. And definitely when it comes to our faithfulness to God in keeping our vows, we need His leading in order to live in full fellowship with Him.