Dear Pastor,
New Year’s resolutions instantly make me feel guilty. I know I won’t accomplish them, so I don’t make them.

A: I’m laughing out loud since I’m sure you’ve voiced what we’re all thinking. Yes, some of us boldly approach the turn of the year as another chance to take a crack at something we resolved to do last year. But the majority of folks are in your guilt-camp feeling defeated with lack of motivation due to past failures. New Year’s Resolutions are challenging goals, yet most of us make them in the hope of turning over a new leaf.

Matthew 5:37 says this: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” I love this verse because it was written by a tax collector, or in modern vernacular, an IRS agent of the ancient world.

In Matthew’s day, the tax codes were straight-forward. But the business of collecting those taxes was a look-the-other-way policy of fleecing the public on a regular basis. This was because tax collectors paid themselves a handsome commission on top of whatever Rome demanded. Everyone knew their tax bills were subject to change since they were at the discretion of the conscience of the collector himself. Matthew faced the temptation to manipulate the facts and inflate or deflate reality; lie, cheat and steal every day. The verse he wrote leads us to believe that he discovered Christ while facing this built-in component of his job.
“Be honest,” he advises, “say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to things. Don’t make promises you can’t [or won’t] keep. If you try to live in the gray areas, it’s evil.” In other words, when we refuse to honor what we promised, run from scheduled obligations and dodge commitments, we’re sliding around in gray soil where evil grows wild.

Nailing things down with a yes or no, and sticking to it speaks of integrity. Integrity is the mark of a Christian walk. Case in point: Would you like Jesus to waffle on his promise to forgive you, save you and welcome you to heaven one day? A promise must be backed by integrity or it means nothing and is a lie. All lies are forged in hell.

Whether in speech or writing, to err on the side of exaggeration is flat-out lying and the Bible says it. To make a promise ... even to ourselves on New Year’s Eve ... with no real intent to accomplish it, is evil. Don’t do it unless you’ve constructed a blue-print for your success and intend to carry it out. You’ve lied to yourself if you don’t. Lying doesn’t come from God. In fact, the Devil himself proudly carries the title of “The Father of Lies.” Lying is lying no matter what color you’ve attached to it. God is only interested in the truth. In fact, multiple times in the book of John, the Holy Spirit is called, “The Spirit of Truth.”

As I rested in my prayer room last night, I was moved to count my blessings. God does this a lot with me since it nips any looming self-pity or depression in the bud immediately. Thanking God for all that I have and all he’s done in my life is also an X-ray of the big picture. While life’s blessings bob up to the surface, the clunkers -- the things still undone -- stay submerged. I can easily see what must change in my life and be improved upon. If an area of my world is not being blessed, it’s never God’s fault, it’s mine. The question then becomes, “What do I plan to do about it?” Call this a New Year’s resolution, perhaps, but in the end, it’s a reframing of my perspective on certain things. Why would I reject or hinder God’s blessing in any area of my life? Certainly, there are things only God can accomplish since they may require a miracle, but most of the time God is asking us to partner with him. He’s waiting on us to make the first move.

What do you want to address this year? Or are you perfectly content with yourself and your world? There’s not a thing wrong with the latter, and you have all permission to rest comfortably in God as you embrace contentment with what you have. However, we must note that while God assures us he never changes and is the same yesterday, today and forever -- he is never inactive. The Kingdom of God is always expanding and moving forward from glory to glory. Perhaps we should too.
Adrienne Greene pastors the Rockdale United Methodist Church near Harrison, OH. Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Please send your inquiries to: heavenchasepub@gmail.com or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030.