When God created the world, he created something especially for humans: duty. There are certain things that we simply must do. To not carry out our duties is to fall short of the purpose and responsibility God gave each one of us.
We are not talking about duties that other people have foisted onto us. These tend to be burdensome and annoying, and we often bristle under those loads. No, we are talking about duties that God himself has placed on us. These are things that ultimately lead to our good – like a child’s duty to his or her parents (Exodus 20:12), or the duty of a husband and wife to one another (Ephesians 5:22, 25), or everyone’s duty to God (Deuteronomy 6:13).
“If a man vows a vow to the Lord … he shall not break his word.” Our vows to God have great significance. By them, we proclaim what we believe about God. We acknowledge God’s love and care for us. “I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psalm 56:12-13).
We gain a laser-like focus on obedience when we make vows to God and then follow through on them. This is good. But we must not make vows in order to shirk our God-given duties. A vow does not cancel out our pre-existing responsibilities.
If I were to vow to do such-and-such a thing for God, that would not negate my duty to my parents or to my wife or to my children (Matthew 15:3-9). The ancient Israelite child in Numbers 30 still had a duty to her parents, and the ancient Israelite wife still had a duty to her husband – regardless of what additional vows might have been made.
Some things simply exist in the creation order. They are immutable realities set in place by God. But God did not establish these things – these duties – in order to burden humanity (Mark 2:27). God never wanted evil for his people, but only a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
As you examine the duties God has given to you – duties toward your husband or wife, or your parents, or your children, or your church, or your employer, or your neighbor – can you see the blessing bound up in those duties? Or have you only made those duties into a burden?