“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.” — Ecclesiastes 5:1
To vow is “to promise solemnly; to give, consecrate, or dedicate by a solemn promise as to the Divine power.”
According to our text the “sacrifice of fools” is an evil thing and is sin (vs. 1 and 6). It is a sacrifice made in “the house of God” or the place of worship. It’s made rashly, in haste without much thought or consideration. It’s a spur of the moment decision based solely on one’s emotions.
This “sacrifice of fools” is a promise, a vow made while one is caught up possibly in the excitement and emotion of the worship service. It’s a vow that’s made recklessly without any thought of the demands and disciplines required to fulfill it or the consequences that will follow if it’s not fulfilled.
There are very serious warnings against making this “sacrifice of fools,” which is a vow made to God that one didn’t seriously consider before making it and then later says it was an “error” (mistake) and would “defer” (postpone, procrastinate, continually put off) “not to pay it.” If the vow is not paid it does matter to and displeases God (vs. 4). God is angry at the voice of the one who didn’t pay his vow and He destroys the work of his hands as a consequence of him not keeping his vow (vs. 6b).
The Christian is not required to make a vow to God. Vows are strictly voluntary. And we should not allow ourselves to be coerced by another or our emotions to make vows that we are not sincere and serious about and ready to live up to. It’s clear from our text that unkept vows are sin and separate us from God and will bring His chastening rod.
Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 23: 21-23 on how serious a thing it was to make a vow to God and then not to pay it, “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forebear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.”
Often a preacher that wants immediate results from his preaching, who wants to sow and reap in one hour can be guilty of encouraging others to make this “sacrifice of fools.” A preacher will intimidate, manipulate and stimulate the people to respond to his message rather than persuade them and get them to think about what they’re doing. In so doing both the preacher and the people are worse off for their irrational behavior.
To avoid making the “sacrifice of fools” one must keep his foot in the path of wisdom and obedience, be more ready to hear and obey the word of God. Know that vows do not have to be made but if made must be kept. And that we have sinned if we do not keep our vows. That the important thing is to be sincere and not be trivial with God or take liberties with Him, but rather to fear Him, which is to reverence, respect and honor Him. “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Is it this “sacrifice of fools” that so many in our churches have made that keeps God from blessing us today?
James H. Cagle lives in Ray City, Ga., and is a former Hamilton County resident.