Entangling alliances: easily the coolest phrase in 20th century history. Someone's President gets capped and before you know it, the entire world is at war.
I wonder if this entanglement isn't the reason we're hesitant to make vows.
I know it can't be because we don't want to have short hair like Paul (Acts 18:18). And I really doubt we're much less committed to the cause.
Maybe we worry that we'll unintentionally make contrary vows. (I vow that my family will only eat organic food. My wife vows that our family will only eat inexpensive food. My son vows that our family will never grow our own food.).
Maybe we worry that we'll make foolish vows. (I'll sacrifice the first thing that comes through the door. Oh no! My daughter! Who would have thought a human would come walking through that door right now?)
Maybe we worry that we'll become legalists. (I've made a dozen vows and kept every single one of them, so I don't need to eat that stale wafer, Padre)
Maybe we worry that we'll fail. (I've made a dozen vows and failed to keep even a single one of them, so I can't eat that stale wafer, Padre)
None of these worries should stop us. We can pursue wisdom. We can fight against our tendency to justify ourselves. There are worse things than failure.
Opportunities for abuse abound when it comes to the spiritual disciplines. Fasting can fuel eating disorders. Giving can turn into magical thinking. Prayer can become apathy. Study can deaden.
The disciplines pursued by themselves or run off kilter can do a lot of damage. But God has given them to us for our good.
A quick glance reveals Jesus and Paul and much of the early church doing all sorts of things that we might consider arcane, odd, unnecessary or even dangerous: these disciplines.