Question: Would it be proper to make a special vow to God to overcome something fleshly?
Answer: A vow is a special promise to God. Our general vow of consecration binds us to seek God’s will faithfully in all things. Special vows pertain to things to which we are not already bound by our general consecration vow.
We often find ourselves in circumstances which tend to aggravate our sinful, fleshly tendencies. When that happens, we need to take action. A special vow should prove helpful in attacking the flesh under such circumstances, thus protecting our new heart, mind, and will. There are other reasons for making special vows. Many of God’s people out of thankfulness and appreciation to Him, desire to do some special good thing for Him who has done so much good for them (Psalm 116: 12-14), and so make special vows to Him. Some have made special vows when in special danger or in serious illness.
The Vow Card
Most Bible Student brethren are familiar with the Vow Card. It is traditionally read at gatherings of the brethren. The elements specified on the Vow Card: praying for the Lord’s general work, scrutinizing our thoughts, words, and deeds, resisting the occult and conducting ourselves properly toward the opposite sex, are consistent with our general vow of consecration, but are particularized and therefore are special vows.
One may have a desire to dabble in Spiritism and Occultism, to try to communicate with dead loved ones, or to read the future. Such should make to God and resolutely keep the third special vow on our Vow Card: “I vow to thee that I will be on the alert to resist everything akin to Spiritism and Occultism, and that, remembering that there are but the two masters, I shall resist these snares in all reasonable ways as being of the Adversary.” This will fortify the individual against the desires of the fleshly mind to dabble in these things, to avoid contact with people who advocate and practice Spiritism and Occultism, to shun books, television and radio programs along this line, to avoid seances, witches, wizards, ouija boards, tarot cards, fortune telling, horoscopes, palmistry, tea-leaf reading, and so forth.
Some are tempted to wrong conduct with the opposite sex, to sin against God (Genesis 39: 9) (2 Samuel 12: 13) (Psalm 51: 4) and others, including one’s spouse. All should make to God and resolutely keep the fourth special vow on our Vow Card, regarding proper conduct with those of the opposite sex. Some of both sexes have made special vows to keep their purity, their virginity, until marriage, which is the Godly course to follow, especially in this time of sexual permissiveness, sexual transmitted diseases and related personal and social evils. Many wisely make special vows not to use tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.
Special vows often have to do with personal devotion to God, such as personal or class study. For example, one may make a special vow to set aside a certain time every day or week to study the Truth, or to read a certain number of pages in the Truth writings every day. It may have to do with some specific service, such as a certain amount of time a day or week for witnessing to others. Sometimes a special vow has to do with developing a certain grace.
Times for Making Special Vows
There are opportune times for making special vows, such as the beginning of a new year, the Memorial season, or on one’s birthday. Such occasions are helpful, for they give us the impetus and the natural feeling of a “new beginning.”
Vows should not be made rashly, but conscientiously, with the determination to keep them (Ecclesiastics 5: 1-6) (Proverbs 20: 25). We need to exercise caution. It is often prudent to put a time limit on certain vows. The keeping of a vow made impulsively could be dangerous for one’s character. Vows frequently violated weakens the conscience, drains our spiritual vitality, and develops in us irresoluteness.
If we have failed properly to keep a vow, or have done contrary to it, we should not merely disregard the matter. The type in Leviticus 5: 15, 16 sets forth the principle that we must make good the damage to our character which results from the breaking of a solemn vow (the 20 per cent). We should go to the Lord in prayer and humbly ask His forgiveness through Christ for our sins of commission and omission, and He will renew our determination.
Like our general consecration vow, our special vows should not be made in our own strength, but always with reliance on the assistance of God’s promised grace through Christ to help in every time of need (2 Corinthians 12: 8, 9) (Philippians 4: 13).