When we say we’re going to do something, but then life happens and we’d rather not, what are the rules? When is it OK to change our mind?
Firstly, if no one’s affected then who cares? But anyone counting on us must approve or be compensated. It’s the golden rule in action; evidently, even God changes His mind like this from time to time. (Jon 3:10)
Simply stating our intent (“I will”) is not necessarily unconditional commitment; it’s not always a solemn promise … it’s not a vow. Most of the time there’s an unstated sense that we’re making a conditional promise, and that’s OK; life’s uncertain and we’re free to change our minds within reason.
Vows are different; we’re expected to think them through very carefully and only make those we intend before God to keep at all costs. (Nu 30:2) They imply a different level of commitment and thoroughness, one that’s not inconsistent with but enables the more flexible types of agreements that facilitate honest cooperation in an uncertain world.
Keeping our word is both a matter of love and a matter of dignity. God expects us to say what we mean and mean what we say. (Ja 5:12) This shouldn’t make us inflexible, but like Old Faithful, we must be dependable. (1Co 4:1-2)