When is it right to break your word?

Our word is our bond.  Integrity is a core value for a Godly person.  If we say we will do it then you can count on it being done.


Our society rightly places a high value on doing what we say we will do.  We draw upon God’s Word for that moral choice.  You can find many Proverbs on this subject: Proverbs 12:22 and Proverbs 11:3 are good examples.  

Our Bible text this week (Mark 6:14-29) shows us a time when Herod makes a promise that he wishes he could break:

22 Then his daughter, also named Herodias,* came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. "Ask me for anything you like," the king said to the girl, "and I will give it to you."23 He even vowed, "I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!” 24 She went out and asked her mother, "What should I ask for?” Her mother told her, "Ask for the head of John the Baptist!" 25 So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, "I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!" 26 Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn't refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John's head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, 28 brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. 

Herod had a choice.  He could maintain his ‘promise’ by keeping his word that he would give her ‘whatever she asked’ or he could maintain his ‘integrity’ by choosing to preserve a life.  In this case, he made a rash promise that he needed to nullify.  When we make a promise, and then learn that we would be breaking the law (and/or God’s Word/law) to fulfill that promise, then it is time to break our word.  After all, our word is nothing compared to God’s.  Our word is nothing compared to a life.  

What an example for us not to make rash promises without understanding the consequences…

A good question for us to ask if we ever find ourself in Herod’s situation is ‘Is there anything that she could ask that I couldn’t do?’  If so, then change your pledge before you ever utter it!

There may be times when we have to say ‘I’m sorry, I know I promised you but what you are asking is not something I can do’.  In these situations you will find that your integrity will be preserved by choosing to honor God’s Word rather than an oath you shouldn’t have made in the first place.  

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t break His Word nor His Promises?  He makes good promises and fulfills them in His Way and His Time.  His integrity is proven to us in that way (and many others).