Contradictions

purple flowers

Contradiction…we all know and understand the meaning behind this word.  Two things that oppose each other.  In English class we call them antonyms.  The two words that mean the opposite of each other.  The usual purpose behind a debate is caused by two or more people that have different usually opposing ideas that they not only feel very strongly about but also think is the only correct way to think.  We see this in our government on a pretty consistent basis these days.  Contradictions are not usually our favorite thing to discuss at a party, and yet the Bible has some contradictions that when looked at on the surface make no sense but when put into practice make perfect sense.

 

Here are a few:

  1. Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

How can we find our life if we lose it?  Usually when I lose something, like a sock in the wash, it is lost.  We do not try to lose things on purpose so that we can then find them.  What was Jesus’ original intent when He spoke these words?  If we deny Christ in hopes of saving our lives, we lose the hope of eternal life.  When we surrender our lives to Christ, we gain the hope of eternal life.  Living a life surrendered to the will of God the Father will find the true purpose and the true meaning of life.  True purpose in life is not found in doing my will, but rather surrendering my will to the Father and doing His will.  Yes, a contradiction.

  1. Proverbs 11:24 “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give and only suffers want.”

This one is certainly an enigma.  When we give we grow richer and when we withhold we are in want.  So many in our culture strive to have the best house, the best car, the best clothes…Three generations from now or even at our funerals will our house and our car be the things that are remembered?  Rather, when we attend funerals no one usually talks about another’s possessions but their character.  When we are generous with our love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…we grow richer.  When we are stingy with our kindness being so focused on meeting our own needs, we suffer.  It seems when I notice the needs of another and freely give of my time and talents, my heart grows richer.  When I fail to notice the needs of others and am so focused on my own needs, I feel even needier.  Loving those that do not deserve it or encouraging those that may not reciprocate fills my heart with more joy than keeping that love for myself.  Notice the pain in someone’s eyes and love them.  Notice the loneliness in someone’s life and be their friend.  We should be giving so freely that when it seems the cup is empty, God has refilled it with more than we had to start with.

  1. Proverbs 11:25 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched and one who waters will himself be watered.”
  2. Acts 20:35 “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

What is the conclusion of the whole matter?  Live a life of contradiction.  Give when it seems there is nothing left to give, and God will reward you.  “Moreover, it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful.” (I Corinthians 4:2).  Will we be found as a faithful giver or a faithful withholder?  God has so richly given to us, should we not follow His example and be faithful givers.  Generosity (giving freely) is not always money.  We all have an endless supply of love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…why not give it all away.  Live a life of contradiction.  Jesus did!

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Kindness cropped

KINDNESS

The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate

 

 

Kindness comes in different packages.  Kindness is an unexpected note in the mail that encourages our hearts.  Kindness is a thoughtful gesture to an undeserved soul.  Kindness is a thoughtful gesture at an unexpected time.  Kindness is a knowing look from across the room.  Kindness is a tenderness during a difficult time.  Kindness is bearing another’s burden with them.  Kindness is empathy.  Kindness is looking for the needs in others and meeting those needs.  Kindness is love put into action.

 

In the midst of a difficult time, nothing is more meaningful than a kind word or thoughtful gesture that brings encouragement to the soul.  The Proverbs 31 woman is known for her kindness.  “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20).  This woman is looking for ways to help people.  Not only is it seen in her actions, it is also seen in her words.  “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26).  She is wise and uses this wisdom to teach others and encourage others with kindness.  Because of her wisdom, she knows what another needs to hear to be encouraged or what another needs to receive to be encouraged.  She is intuitive.  “Her husband is known in the gates…” (Proverbs 31:23).  If this Proverbs 31 lady was unkind with her actions and  harsh words came from her mouth, it would stain the reputation of her husband and he would not hold a position of honor among those at the gate.

 

The final compliment to the Proverbs 31 woman’s character is verse 28. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”  How we are at home is a true indicator of who we really are.  Most of us are good at putting our masks on outside the four walls of our homes, but what goes on within is a test of true character.  The fact that her children and her husband blessed and praised her is a true indication that her kindness in word and deeds was not for show but was her genuine character.  Our true character shines through when no one is watching.

 

One of my favorite stories of kindness happened a few years ago.  A friend of mine lost her husband.  The loss of a loved one is always difficult during those first holidays.  Christmas was fast approaching and the loneliness of a Christmas without her spouse was going to be difficult.  One evening about 12 days before Christmas, some young men whom she did not know knocked on her door carrying gifts.  They came in and set down the gifts in her living and handed her an envelope and left.  The letter told her to open one gift each day for the next twelve days.  The gifts were not extravagant, but they were such an encouragement to her to know someone cared so much about her and her loneliness to provide a little light each day during the Christmas season.  She never did find out who gave the gifts, but that first Christmas without her husband was so much brighter because of someone’s kindness.

 

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7).  What is in our hearts comes out through our mouths and our lives.  We have a choice every day.  Will you be known for “the teaching of kindness on your tongue?” (Proverbs 31:26).

 

Apples of Gold

apples

“She opens her mouth with wisdom,

And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

Proverbs 31:26

We have all conversed with different types of people who exhibit various styles of communication.  Some we enjoy listening and talking with and others we cannot wait to end.  There are many reasons we enjoy sharing and talking with some people and not with others.  Some people only talk about themselves or their children and their accomplishments.  They like to show off their status or maybe they frequently drop names of people they have been with to help boost their self-image.  At the other end of the spectrum are those people who are good listeners.  They ask questions about how we are doing and what is going on in our lives.  We can tell they are truly listening because they ask appropriate questions based on what we are telling them.  We could identify people that fit into both of these categories.

Our virtuous woman is a good listener and when she speaks, it is a “word fitly spoken like apples of gold in a setting of silver. “ (Proverbs. 25:1).  “She opens” in Hebrew has a fascinating meaning.  It means to plough or engrave.  A farmer ploughs his field preparing it for planting.  The better the farmer does at ploughing and preparing the better his production of crops.  A woman with her words can prepare the heart and soul of her listener with words of wisdom and kindness.  Ploughing turns the soil over loosening and exposing different parts of it.  When we as women interact with different people, the words we say can loosen hearts and minds and cause a sensitivity to God and His word that would not have happened if the words had been harsh, quarrelsome, or fretful.  A woman with her words may not always say things that are positive, but she knows how to be constructive and speak a word at the appropriate moment that will sit well with the listener.

The other meaning of the word open is to engrave.  Engraving is a permanent etching into something that is extremely difficult to remove.  Our words are engraved on the hearts and minds of those who listen.  We can all remember one word or phrase that someone has said to us that was hurtful and unkind.  It resonated through our soul and came back to our minds over and over causing repeat pain.  Before we speak, we must carefully consider our words.

If we choose to speak a word of criticism we must have carefully cultivated the field by investing into the relationship with our time, prayers, and frequent kind and encouraging words.  When this is done the field will be ready for the word of criticism, but it will be a “word fitly spoken.” (Proverbs 25:1).  We must also be careful not to speak kind words that are not true or disingenuous.  We can see through these words and they can also cause pain.

We must carefully consider our words, not only what is said, but also when it is said and the tone of voice it is said with.  What we say is engraved on the heart of our listeners and no matter how many kind words are said they may never erase the unkind or hurtful words.  As a listener we need to be wise and discerning in what we hear and not disregard every word that is spoken to us.  Was the word, though seeming unkind, said in a humble and loving way?  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) or “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

Below is a comparison between words the virtuous woman says and those that the foolish woman says.  Carefully consider your words as you read this comparison.

Virtuous woman’s speech Foolish woman’s speech 
Builds her house (Prov. 14:1) Tears her house down (Prov. 14:1)
Wise words wins favor (Ecc. 10:12-14) Foolish words consume, are evil madness, and are many (Ecc. 10:12-14)
Considers and holds back words (Prov. 29:11) Foolish give full vent (Prov. 29:11)
Wise words bring healing (Prov. 12:18) Rash words are like sword thrusts

(Prov. 12:18)

Know what is acceptable (Prov. 10:32) Perverse (Prov. 10:32)
Spread knowledge (Prov. 15:7) Loud, seductive, & knows nothing

(Prov. 9:13)

Precious jewel (Prov. 20:15) Quarrelsome and fretful (Prov. 19:13; 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15,16)
Gracious, seasoned with salt (Col 4:6) Idlers, busybodies, gossips (II Tim. 5:13)
Quick to listen & slow to speak (James 1:19) Evil (Prov. 15:28)
Restrains words (Prov. 17:27)
Ponders answer (Prov. 15:28)
Appropriate words at appropriate times

(Prov. 15:23)

Consider one last verse.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul, and health to the body.”

(Proverbs 16:24)

Questions:

  1. Are you working harder at preparing the soil or planting the seed with your words and actions?
  1. “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply” (Unknown).  How does this quote resonate with you?
  1. How does Proverbs 15:1 fit with our discussion in this lesson?

Kindness

Kindness does not go unnoticed.  Kindness may be done in secret in such a way that no one knows who performed the kind deed, but the kind deed does not go unnoticed.  Sir Nicholas Winton organized a rescue operation that saved the lives of 669 Jewish Czechoslovakian children from Nazi death camps, and brought them to the safety of Great Britain between the years 1938-1939.  This man’s valiant efforts remained unknown for 50 years until his wife found a scrapbook with a complete list of the children’s names with their photo.  This man’s kindness was not forgotten, but he remained unknown for 50 years.  This is the story of true servant hood and humility. Sir Nicholas Winton counted “others more significant than himself.” (Philippians 2:3)

Ruth showed kindness to Naomi by sacrificing what was comfortable to her.  Ruth left her parents, her native land, and the people she knew to go to a place she did not know and live amongst people she did not know.  Moving involves change and it takes time to become adjusted to this type of change in our lives, even if the move is an exciting one.  Ruth not only left her parents, she also left the culture with which she was familiar.  She left Moab for Bethlehem not with her husband or her family, but with her mother-in-law.   We have all heard plenty of mother-in-law jokes, but of all the people to move to a new culture, most would not pick their mother-in-law to move with.  Not only would most people not move with their mother-in-law, most would not go with the same commitment expressed by Ruth in Ruth 1:16-18.

Ruth’s kindness did not go unnoticed or unrewarded.  Due to Ruth’s kindness, Boaz instructed his harvesters to leave extra grain for Ruth to glean. (Ruth 2:15, 16).  Ruth still had to work for the grain, but Boaz wanted to be sure that Naomi and Ruth were taken care of.  This was not a free handout situation, but rather a generosity on the part of Boaz.

Ruth did not come to Boaz’s field by accident, but rather Ruth was directed by God.  Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz. (Ruth 2:3).  The irony of the word “happened” is clearly seen as we continue to read this story we see how God orchestrated this meeting between Ruth and Boaz.  Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a man are directed by the Lord, when he delights in His ways.” God was caring for Ruth every step of the way and watching out for Naomi too.

Not only do we see Ruth’s kindness and her willingness to work, but also we see her generosity.  Boaz generously provided food for the gleaners for their meal, and after Ruth was satisfied she tucked away her leftovers and took them to Naomi.  We see in Ruth her continual desire to care for others and treat others better than herself.  There was nothing that Ruth was going to receive in the process of her kindness, but she willingly served.

How many people do we know that willingly serve with no desire to be repaid?  There is nothing they want in return, but rather their desire is to serve others selflessly.  The more we practice this trait the easier it becomes and the more satisfaction we receive just from serving; however, we must guard against pride in our serving.  God needs to receive all the glory for without Him we would not have the ability to serve.

Questions:

  1. In Ruth 2:3, we see that Ruth “happened” to come to Boaz’s field. Have you had a time in your life when God ordered your circumstances and you saw His hand working and a situation “happened?”
  1. Read Proverbs 16:9. The word “established” means “directs.”  Have you seen your plans change and God “direct” your steps and it worked out better than you would have ever hoped?
  1. Why do you think Ruth was willing to leave her homeland and come to a new country with her mother-in-law?
  1. What blessing does Boaz speak over Ruth in Ruth 2:12?
  1. What is Ruth’s response to Boaz’s blessing? (Ruth 2:13).
  1. After Ruth worked all day, she had to beat her barley into flour. She had gleaned enough to make an ephah of flour.  An ephah is equal to about 5.5 gallons which would be enough for two women to eat on for two weeks.  How does God provide for those who are faithful to Him?
  1. What was Naomi’s response to what Ruth brought home after a full day of work? (Ruth 2:19-20)