Bo doesn’t say much. He’s standing here in my office right now, and not a single word has passed his mouth. This is probably a good thing, since Bo is a dog. And as dogs go, he’s generally a closed-mouth kind of guy.
When Bo wants to go out, he’ll get antsy until we let him out. When he’s hungry–if we’ve neglected to feed him–he might nose at his bowl. Otherwise, he lets his actions speak for him. I admire that. He doesn’t sit around bragging about how he’s going to catch some squirrel in the yard. Instead, he waits until the opportunity arises and gives that squirrel a mighty run.
If only people could be more like Bo. Instead, our mouths tend to promise a great deal more than our hands can deliver. This isn’t a new thing. Solomon spoke of the same 3,000 years ago.
Just as dreams accompany much labor, so also a fool’s voice comes with many words. When you make a vow to God, don’t delay fulfilling it, because he does not delight in fools. Fulfill what you vow. Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it.Ecclesiastes 5:3-5
The Empty Promise
I used to know a guy named Ralph. Ralph meant well, but his hopes and dreams ran far ahead of his ability to bring those to anything like a reality. He was a master of the “coulda, shoulda, woulda” school of accomplishment. One year, as the Scout troop readied itself to leave for summer camp, we realized that Ralph had taken some of the medical forms home and lost them in the mountain of papers that topped his desk. Happily, a half-hour’s excavation turned them up. It was then that I decided that the best thing you could hear out of Ralph’s mouth was two words: “I found . . .”
As I said before, Ralph meant well. He’d volunteer for things at church, and from time to time, he’d actually do them Normally, he procrastinated, alienating most of the people with whom he dealt. I learned to appreciate him, but I also learned never to depend on him.
If I were totally unlike Ralph, I could feel a little better about sharing these comments. But in reality, I’m all too often just like him, perhaps not to the same degree but with no more excuse.
Today, I’ve been working on a writing assignment–a paying gig that will land a nice sum in my bank account a few days after I submit it. I’ve had this assignment and known the deadline for about eight months, but I have of course put it off and allowed the date to sneak up on me until now I have to push myself to finish it in the next two days.
Getting in Tune
Today’s text warns us about making vows to God. We can sometimes fool people when we make pie-crust promises–easily made and easily broken. We can offer up pitiful excuses like “I never got that email” or “My computer ate it.” Eventually people figure us out, but we can get away with it for a while.
God, of course, knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows when we promise something whether or not we’ll get it done. Perhaps if we keep our mouths shut and listen to Him instead, He’ll help us learn to come through better.