But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”
Ruth 1:16-17 NLT
How many promises have I broken in my life? Big ones, small ones – hundreds, thousands? I’m sure I wouldn’t really like to know the answer. I’ve broken promises to friends, family, loved ones, workmates, pastors, neighbours – all of them and others besides. Even worse, I have broken promises I made to God. All because promises can be just words, and what I’m promising doesn’t have the importance of the moment.
Ruth didn’t just make a promise here, though. She made an oath, because it was accompanied by a dire threat to herself – that God would punish her severely if she reneged on it. How would I behave with promises if every one came with such a threat? I probably would not make very many! And yet, how much do I lose when I break a promise? How many relationships have been harmed? How many benefits have I lost? How many prayers have gone unanswered?
Jesus tells us not to make oaths, but to let our yes mean yes and our no mean no. That’s how simple it should be. When I say I’m going to do something, I should just do it. People should be able to rely on me, and so should God.