We spent some time in our last program looking at the subject of corban. Making a sacred vow rashly, or making a vow that is actually contradictory to God’s Law and whether or not the maker of the vow is obligated to keep it. We looked at the rash vow made by Jephthah who sacrificed the life of his daughter because of his own foolishness and also how Joshua allowed himself to be deceived into making a vow with the Gibeonites.
We live in a day and age when making vows is not really a big deal. The most obvious vows of course are marriage vows and we know that marriage has now been redefined to the point where it doesn’t actually mean much, at least from a societal viewpoint. Vows to faithfulness, fidelity and life-long loyalty are discarded very easily by simply citing ‘irreconcilable differences’, that’s all that’s required in our culture. Vows carry very little weight or importance these days. But in God’s eyes, vows are sacred.
Numbers 30:2, ‘If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.’
At the time Jesus lived and ministered, the priesthood had become incredibly corrupt and had become a money-making concern. They sold doves, pigeons, sheep, goats and other livestock for inflated prices to the masses for sacrificial offerings. They had a currency exchange operation set up in the temple to convert Roman currency with the image of Caesar on it, into the Temple shekel and of course, the exchange rate was inflated also. The priests were making very good money from their businesses set up in the Temple.
Then of course, they would also gain financially from the oaths or vows made by the people when they brought other kinds of offerings to the Temple. It was in their best interests to encourage such offerings.
Jesus also weighed in on this subject…the word ‘corban’ was used at a time when He scolded some of His opponents for their ruling on this issue.
Mark 7:5-13, ‘The Pharisees and the Scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it’s written: ‘This people honours Me with their lips but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandments of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother,” and “He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death,” but you say, “if a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is corban (that is to say, given to God),” you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”‘
Some interpreters have read this passage as if the Jewish leadership was encouraging people to vow their possessions to the Temple so that they could profit by it, leaving impoverished families behind. But much more likely, a hot-headed young man was arguing with his parents and shouted, “Corban what I would give you when you are old!” The lawyers were debating whether the man was obligated to keep the terrible oath he made, and apparently some thought he was. The religious leaders were considered experts in the law because the Law was founded on the Torah, the Law of God.
Many have assumed that all the Jewish leadership held the position that any man making such a claim was obligated by the law of vows but that’s not the case, the debate had long been had that no tradition was to ever undermine God’s laws.
However, during Jesus’s earthly ministry and for about 400 years prior to His arrival back to the time of Malachi, the religious leadership – especially the ruling priesthood in the Temple – had become very corrupt and they were ripping the people off and therefore, any man who rashly claimed that his money was now corban – that is dedicated to God – had to be given to the Temple (them) even if it meant that the man’s parents became destitute and impoverished. An action that was diametrically opposed to God’s higher law of honouring mother and father.
It’s worth pointing out that in ancient times there was no social security, no old aged pensions, no aged care facilities at all. These are all modern inventions. A man was expected to care for the needs of his aging parents in the same way his parents had cared for him throughout his childhood and this pattern was carried on throughout the generations and in fact, is still a way of life in many cultures around the world.
Everything we do must be measured by God’s laws, God’s standards, God’s heart for life, family, forgiveness and righteousness. No vow or oath that undermines God’s laws and statutes has legitimacy in His eyes, and we are never to make oaths or vows or covenants with anyone or any group or organisation because by doing so we obligate ourselves to human traditions and bylaws which are intrinsically flawed because of their human origin.
Listen to what Jesus said on this subject of makings vows or covenants.
Matthew 5:33-37, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King, nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no no’; anything beyond these is of evil.“
Every decision or position we make or hold to must be 100% aligned with God’s Word not with the words, traditions or good ideas of men. Be very careful about who you make vows to or covenants with. Other than your marriage vows, simply let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.
Based on the writing of Lois Tverberg