Careless Promises

SDA JournalDevotional


Scripture: (Judg 11:30-31 NKJV)  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, {31} “then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

Observation: Jephthah led the Israelites to defeat the Ammonites, but before he went to war with them he asked God for the power, the strength, the ability to defeat them, and then promised that if he would indeed win he would present God an offering of the first thing that came out of the house.  I’m not sure what he thought would come out – an cow, a goat?  Or if he thought that maybe one servant might come out.  But great was his distress when it was his only daughter who came out to greet him and to celebrate his victory and great her disappointment when instead of a great joy, her celebration turned into great sorrow.

Application: Just as careless as Jephthah was with his vow, so are many parents with the promises or threatened discipline.  We have observed many parents, specially parents of small children, threaten discipline unless their children change their actions, but they do it in a way that the children know are vain words.  Some  count: “Jimmy stop that!  One. . . two. . . two-and-a-half. . .”  Children know that counting doesn’t really mean anything until it gets to three.  Others would threaten by repeating themselves: “Sussy, come here. . . Sussy, I told you to come here. . . Sussy, I’m not going to tell you again, come here. . . Sussy, I’m getting upset, you better come here. . .” and on and on.  Other parents use their staccato voice and the children’s names to show the escalation of their command: “Ronny pick up your toys. . . Ron, pick up your toys. . . Ronald, pick up your toys, Ronald Arthur, I told you to pick up your toys. . . RONALD ARTHUR SMITH YOU COME RIGHT NOW AND PICK UP YOUR TOYS OR I’M GOING TO. . .”  It is finally at this point that children take their parents more seriously and begin to either move in the direction of complying or rebelling further to see how far they can push their parents.
     When it comes to discipline, it’s best to follow these steps:
1. Set clear limits and consequences, according to the age and understanding capacity of each child.
2. If the child crosses the limit, apply discipline immediately.  This does a number of things.  First of all, you as the parent applies the discipline without losing your temper.  Secondly, the child learns to comply with the pre-defined limits.
3. Immediately after applying discipline, reassure your children of your love for them.
     In the same way, don’t make threats that will affect you or the rest of the family because you will end up punishing everyone else or you will find yourself in the position to break the threat.  For instance, if your child comes home later than they should have and you tell them something like: “You’re not going anywhere for a month!”, you may have to stay at home for that month and therefore the entire family is punished with the transgressor.
     On the other hand, don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Don’t say, “if you get good grades I’ll buy you a new car,” when you may not be able to afford the car and all related expenses, and if your child does get good grades, then you may not be able to fulfill that promise and therefore give negative messages to your children, such as: My parents don’t keep their promises, it doesn’t matter if I do well in school, etc.
     These things are part of what Jesus meant when He said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” (Mat. 5:37).

A Prayer You May Say: Father, help us to make no promises or threats we cannot keep.

Used by permission of Adventist Family Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.



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