Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Today’s wisdom passage is hard for me, because my human nature does the opposite of what it says.
Proverbs 24:17-18 “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.”
I tend to rejoice when people who have done wrong get their just rewards. You must know what I mean and have felt the same way about certain people. For example, as you’re driving down the interstate, a sports car races past you doing 85 mph. What’s the first thought in your head? “I hope there’s a highway patrol up ahead and he gets stopped.” Two miles up the road we see the flashing lights and we think another thought – “I hope it’s that sports car guy.” We drive by, and when we see that it is, we smile and think – “good, you got caught.”
If our thoughts at such a time go beyond just being thankful that we have police to keep our roads safe, and they move to rejoicing over someone else’s misfortune (even though they made the choice to speed and deserved the consequences), then we are not acting in God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is defined in James 3:17, which says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” I cannot in any way justify my feelings of revenge or rejoicing over someone else’s misfortune when I read this description of wisdom.
What is my heart thinking when I wish harm on another person? What kind of spiritual dysfunction exists in my mind when I am happy to see a sinner suffer? How carnal have my attitudes become when I devise ways to see justice enforced upon other people? How un-like Christ do I appear when I love conflict more than peace; self more than surrender; justice more than mercy? How self-centered am I when I desire consequences for the actions of others but seek to avoid consequences for my own choices? Oh that the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ toward enemies and sinners would overwhelm us with sincere compassion for those who need to be shown the path of wisdom and righteousness.
Dale Carnegie, who wrote the book How To Win Friends and Influence People, says “You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The simple point I would like to make today is this – We will attract more people to Christ by showing them the right and the good way they could live rather than by constantly pointing out to them the wrong and the bad way they are living. When we focus on sharing the good news, we become merciful. When we focus on voicing the bad news, we become judgmental.
Wisdom is merciful and loving. Let’s “Be wise in the way we act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6)