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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Monastic Vows, Part 4

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Ecclesiastes 5:1–7

From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows

Now, if the obligation of vows could never be changed for any reason whatever, the popes would never have granted dispensations. For no one may annul an obligation that is founded on God's law. That is why popes have wisely decided that leniency is to be observed in this obligation, and therefore we read that many times they have released people from vows. The King of Aragon, who was called back from the monastery, is well known, and there are also examples in our own times. Now, if dispensations have been granted for the sake of securing temporal interests, it is far more proper that they be granted for the benefit of distressed souls.

Pulling It Together

The practice of religion can be insincere and downright hypocritical. Even our devotion can be disingenuous when it is focused on self instead of God. So we should watch our step and guard our words. Church is not only a place of ceremony, duty, and ministry; it is where the Word of God is taught. So we should be careful to listen instead of speaking bold and reckless words, for it is difficult to break a promise. Nonetheless, some promises must be broken. When God's word and order are at stake, promises should be reconsidered in the light of God's law. They ought to have been thought through in accordance with the Lord's teaching at the start, but better late than never. In terms of monastic vows, even popes have understood that these vows must sometimes be rescinded. Lutherans do not take vows lightly, but we consider first and foremost the state of a person's soul, since this is God's concern. It is sometimes a benefit to the human soul to release someone from a promise, even if he thought he had made his vow to God. With one's mouth, many may be led into sin, so we should not make hasty promises. When those promises must be broken and we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive (1John 1:9).

Prayer: Merciful God, grant to me today the grace of being quick to listen and slow to speak. Amen. 

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