While studying the book of Leviticus, I came to that puzzling last chapter that talks about making special vows. At first glance it seems out of place, but after careful examination, it appears that this last-minute attention to vows is related to what happens when we experience God’s blessing: we want to give back, to sacrifice. So we enthusiastically make promises that we often don’t keep. That’s why the last chapter of Leviticus warns us to be careful about what we promise, particularly when on an emotional high.
Have you heard the statement, “There are no atheists in fox holes”? In a sense, the text in Leviticus cautions those who make promises in the heat of the battle or in a state of high emotion. Many vows are made to God when life is threatened or falling apart. During marital conflict or with news of a serious illness, we often vow that if God will do this, then we will do that. But when the crisis has passed, our vows are soon ignored and forgotten.
The last chapter of Leviticus also helps to keep our responses in check when we receive an unexpected windfall of revenue: an insurance check, perhaps, an unexpected stock market check (unlikely today!), or an inheritance. At first you might say, “I am going to give a portion back to God.” Certainly your heart is right-but time passes, and our good intentions become nothing more than forgotten shadows.
So it appears that the last chapter of Leviticus is a reminder that our words are extremely important to God; we need to mean what we say, and say what we mean. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “By your words man shall be justified, and by his words he shall be condemned.”