These are the rules that God gave Moses regarding conduct between a man and his wife and between a father and his young daughter who is still living at home. Numbers 30:16 (MSG)
Have you ever read the United States Tax Code? Me either. Just for the sake of illustration, let me quote from Section 194 The Amortization of Reforestation Expenditures. This is just one small paragraph of one section of the code which has nearly 10,000 sections:
In the case of any qualified timber property with respect to which the taxpayer has made (in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary) an election under this subsection, the taxpayer shall be entitled to a deduction with respect to the amortization of the amortizable basis of qualified timber property based on a period of 84 months. Such amortization deduction shall be an amount, with respect to each month of such period within the taxable year, equal to the amortizable basis at the end of such month divided by the number of months (including the month for which the deduction is computed) remaining in the period. Such amortizable basis at the end of the month shall be computed without regard to the amortization deduction for such month. The 84-month period shall begin on the first day of the first month of the second half of the taxable year in which the amortizable basis is acquired.
One thing I’ve learned about laws and rules as I’ve journeyed along life’s road is that they never get shorter and more simple. Laws and rules only grow deeper and more complex. This is because more and more laws must be created to address the infinite number of exceptional circumstances life creates, and because lawmakers have a tendency to slip in loopholes and addendum that will profit them and their constituents. God started with ten basic rules and I feel like it kind of got out of hand from there.
I thought about that as I read the rather arcane chapter today concerning vows. First of all, I had to remind myself that the law was given to a middle-eastern nomadic nation about seven thousand years ago, so I have to extend some grace for the fact that life was much different at that point in history. Next, I tried to step back and catch the bigger picture of the principles being communicated here.
One thing I observed was the acknowledgement that vows can be made rashly with naivete. In these cases, there was system set up for authority that could step in an nullify the vow. That’s huge because, face it, we all make rash vows in our ignorance, innocence and naivete. It comes with being human.
The second thing I observed was how such a small chapter had me scratching my head like a chapter of the U.S. Tax Code. Rules and laws and tax codes never get more simple. They get bigger, longer, and more complex until it feels like a heavy, headache inducing burden just to think about it. We get so caught in the minute letters of the law that we miss the big point. Which is why I appreciate Jesus saying “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.'” (it’s sort of his version of the simplified flat tax). I believe that’s also what Jesus was addressing when he said, “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:31-32)
Today, I’m grateful to be free from following every section and subparagraph of a that I might simply and obediently follow Jesus.