Bible Question:

If you made a vow when you were eleven years old that you would never take a sip of alcohol, would you be punished if you did when you were of legal age?

Bible Answer:

There are two issues in your question. The first is should we keep our vows and the second is when does God punish us for the sins we commit, such as breaking a vow?

Keeping Vows

The best summary dealing with the making and keeping of vows is given by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount . Here are a few verses from His sermon.

Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ . . . But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil. (NASB) Matthew 5:33, 37

Here Jesus is rejecting the Jewish religious leaders’ teaching that some oaths, vows or promises did not really count. They said some promises were very important to keep and others were not that important. For example, if you made a promise to your manager at work, the Pharisees might say that that one counts but not the one you made to your spouse, daughter or son. The promise you made to your credit card company or your mortgage company is not as important as the one you made to your church. The commitment you made to your mother or father is not really as important as that football game, the conversation with your girl friend, or that movie. For others the marriage vow is an old, tired idea and some treat it like a vow to be ignored when convenient. Jesus makes two points: keep our vows and it is better not to make vows.

We have all promised to do something and then not done it. Some of us make promises and really never intend to do what we say. Others make promises and are forever canceling obligations, or making one excuse after another. The excuse may be a good one, but God says, we should “swear to our own hurt.” What kind of promises do you make? James 4:15-16 tells us how we should make promises,

If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that. But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (NASB) James 4:15-16

Our words show that our plans and promises depend on God with the intent that we will fulfill our obligation to our own hurt. If you make a vow, keep it!

God and Our Sins

Will God punish me for breaking a vow I made when I was younger? Here is an important point to think about. How old must a person be before he or she must keep the vow? Are vows made at the age of twenty-one years of age “good vows?” How about vows at the age of forty years? Vows have been broken that were made at twenty-one, forty, and even sixty years of age. It breaks the heart of God to see our causal view of sin. One sin brought sin to all of mankind. Adam’s sin brought death, sickness, and anger into the human race. Yet, God does not punish us for every sin we commit. I thank Him for His mercy to me. Here is a wonderful verse from the Old Testament.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. (NASB) Psalms 103:10

Conclusion:

Will God punish you for taking a drink? We cannot answer that question. I would not want to encourgae you to lightly disregard sin and depend on His mercy. God wants us to keep our commitments – “yes, yes, or no, no.” I believe that the best and highest response is to keep your vow. I believe that Jesus would want you to keep your vow. You may also be interested in what the Bible has to say about drinking .