Good Intentions and No Ambition

An old English proverb says the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Intentions are like ambitions without action. Unless there is follow-through, intentions become rash commitments or poorly conceived plans.

A common example is the New Year's resolution that sounds good and useful but isn't carried out or sustained. Intentions can be rash—not thought through carefully or without consideration of possible consequences.

Promises, Promises

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

Remember the ways we tried to make our promises believable, as children? We said things like, "Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye." I never liked the idea of a needle in the eye! I've heard people say other silly things like, "I swear on a stack of Bibles," or "...on my mother's grave."

It's useless to guarantee promises. Either you keep them or you don't. My experience is that serial promise-makers don't keep their promises most of the time. For many people, promises are often just good intentions, and it's said that "the path to hell is paved with good intentions."

It seems a lot wiser to not make promises in the first place, especially ones we can't, or won't, keep.


Be careful what you say when you go to God's house. Go there to listen. Don't be like foolish people when you offer your sacrifice. They do what is wrong and don't even know it. Don't be too quick to speak.Don't be in a hurry to say anything to God. He is in heaven. You are on earth. So use only a few words when you speak.Dreams come to people when they worry a lot. When foolish people talk, they use too many words.[vss 1-3]

When you make a promise to God, don't wait too long to carry it out. He isn't pleased with foolish people. So do what you have promised. It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it. Don't let your mouth cause you to sin. Don't object to the temple messenger. Don't say, "My promise was a mistake." Why should God be angry with what you say? Why should he destroy what you have done? Dreaming too much and talking too much are meaningless. So have respect for God.[vss 4-7]

(Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 NIRV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 5]

Key phrase— It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it 

[bctt tweet="It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it"]

Digging Deeper...

What's the first admonition given here? What is recommended and why?

When should we limit our words? What tends to happen when too many words are spoken?

What are we told about promises and God? What advice is given and why?

When we fail to keep our word and follow through on things, what is the wise thing to do?


Sometimes I like to drive with the radio and CD player off. It might sound boring, but it's not. It helps me pray and think things through, as well as pray for others. I also find myself more attentive to what's going on around me.

Sometimes, I'll go through a day where I say little to others, and just listen. That's not always easy for me. I like to talk, and can ramble on and on without saying much of anything.

Another place I've learned to listen is when I'm on my knees before God. I don't always need to say something. We can hear a lot when we're willing to just listen.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you find yourself making promises to assure people of your intentions?

Do you ever regret making promises, or have a hard time keeping the ones you do make?

How do you guard yourself from making rash promises or talking too much?

When was the last time you listened more than talked?