Giving Our Word: Christian Goal Setting Part 4

Setting goals as a Christian involves considering factors often less known outside Christianity. In part one we discussed the biblical tension between short-term and long-term goals. In part two we discussed sanctification and setting goals that matter. The third factor, the “God Factor” is when God in His sovereignty steps into our plans. This is part four of a five-part series, and we will explore tension concerning taking oaths.

Guest Blogger: Mark Gedeon

12/3/20234 min read

Mark Gedeon
Mark Gedeon

Guest Blogger: Mark Gedeon

When is Your Word NOT Your Bond?

In the third part of this series, I emphasized the importance of holding our plans loosely. Building upon that thought, is there a difference in commitments to goals, when making promises to others? A passage that has given me pause in this regard is Matthew 5:37, which advises, “Let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay.” Some interpret this as akin to the saying “Your word is your bond,” suggesting an unwavering commitment to every statement we make.

However, the context of Matthew 5:37 pertains to avoiding certain types of oaths. It encourages truthfulness and discourages the need for extravagant pledges, such as swearing on a stack of Bibles. The essence is to be a truthful person, not necessarily bound by a rigid oath every time we commit to doing something. The intent is clear: speak the truth without the need for elaborate promises.

As Christians, we are to be people of our word. What we say we will do; we should do. Some may disagree with me on this. When I say I will do something, I take it seriously and will try to do it. But I am not giving you “my word” as some would interpret it. I will make a great effort, but I may fall short. Unless there is some serious harm to you, I will not harm myself. What I said to you is not intended as an oath or vow. The Bible is clear about making a vow rashly. And in no uncertain terms, if you make a vow, keep it even if it hurts. Ecclesiastes 5:4-6; Deut. 23:21 and Psalms 15:4.

So how do we frame our words so that we are honest and not held to “you promised?” You may consider making a conditional promise.

Clarification on Conditional Words

When it comes to a statement that may imply giving your word about the future, use the words of a conditional promise. “If the Lord wills,” is the biblical conditional phrase that we previously talked about in part three of the series. A business conditional phrase may be “I expect to be done on this date and I will be persistent to get it done. But I cannot make a definitive promise for that date.” A humorous one is “God willing, and the wind blows right.” Never use conditional phrases as an excuse to be lazy or negligent.

Why Do We Say Yes?

Many of us are averse to conflict and say “OK” when asked to do something when we have no intentions of doing it unless we don’t have anything better to do. Which is never. The conflict has not been averted. It will come up and will be more intense. Setting boundaries and being honest about your availability is crucial for your well-being and maintaining healthy relationships. People generally appreciate honesty and straightforwardness, and it helps in building trust over time. Some suggestions for not implying that you will do what you are not willing to commit to:

· "I appreciate you thinking of me, but my schedule is full right now."

· "I'm currently focusing on other commitments and won't be able to take on additional tasks."

· "I have to be selective with my time right now, and unfortunately, I can't add more to my plate."

· "I won't be able to do that, but perhaps I can help in another way or at a later time."

· "I've set some personal boundaries to manage my workload effectively, and I need to stick to them."

Goals Gone Wrong

While on the topic of commitment to others, it's worth reflecting on the business policy of “Accept no excuses.” This policy, while common, is neither biblical nor realistic. All goals should acknowledge the underlying principle of “If the Lord wills.” I agree, we should not allow excuses for laziness, poor quality, and needless expenses. We should look for ethical ways to be more productive, deliver a better product, and cut costs. However, insisting on “Accept no excuses” can be ungodly, particularly when companies set goals without considering their employees' input or providing the necessary resources and support.

In some instances, wrongly focused goals may exert undue pressure on employees, leading to unethical behaviors or unwarranted risks. When a culture of fierce competition is encouraged, it fosters an “every man for himself” mentality. I've witnessed situations where companies inadvertently incentivized employees to “game” bonus programs, finding shortcuts that result in personal wins but collective losses for the company, customers, and employees alike.

I have also seen companies crush employees under ridiculous goals. I’m a firm believer in doing the right things and letting the consequences fall where they may. The long-term interest of the company is at stake when goals are poorly chosen or executed.

“...the beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and … harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored. …goal(s) setting should not be used as a benign, “over-the-counter” treatment … but rather as a “prescription-strength medication” that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision. (Bazerman, 2009) 09-083.pdf (

We should be clear about the goals we set and the commitments we make – “let your yes be yes and no be no.”. God judges every word. In the next part of this series, we will delve into goal setting and money as a measure.