A Cup of Kindness

“A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.”

Proverbs 12:10 (NASB)

“Paw. Lettuce. Paw. Lettuce. Good girl, Cookie. You did it! Paw. Lettuce. Paw. Lettuce….”

These are the words I overheard my daughter saying to her Guinea pig, Cookie, a few days ago. Caroline was training her pet to high-five by holding up Cookie’s paw and then giving her a piece of lettuce, and while it was taking a long time to get her to do it on her own it was working because Caroline was patient with her pet. My daughter LOVES her Guinea pig, and that really is an understatement. She makes sure Cookie is clean, groomed, healthy, and well-fed. She builds obstacle courses for her to play in and she snuggles with her every day. She considers herself as Cookie’s mom. And, if you meet my daughter, you are 100 percent guaranteed to hear about Cookie.

By her actions, Caroline illustrates the Proverbs 12:10 person who is kind to his or her animal. Righteousness, or godliness, encompasses care and compassion for the needs of others, whether animal or person. I believe Proverbs 12:10 applies to people, too. For the way we treat everything around us shows what is in our heart. When you see someone in need, what do you do? Do you continue on your way, like the first two men in The Good Samaritan story? Or do you stop and give of your time, possessions, and compassion, like the Samaritan did to help the beaten man on the road (Luke 10:25-37)?

Righteous people help others. This requires compassion for those around us, which means we must be humble, willing to put the needs of others above our own. It also means we must be alert, actually looking beyond ourselves to see what is happening around us (Philippians 2:4). We must be wise to know how best to help in a situation. But most importantly, we must be a people who pray (1 Chronicles 16:11, Ephesians 6:18).

Every morning, when you wake up, ask the Lord what He would have you do today, and before you leave the house, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).  You never know when you might be the provider of the cup of kindness a person needs!

 

Sounds of Silence

 “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.”

Proverbs 11:12 (ESV)

Proverbs 11:12 is a convicting verse for those of us who speak before thinking and for those of us who like to air our negative opinions, especially when they are about someone else. Have you ever belittled your neighbor? The Hebrew word for belittle is buwz, meaning to despise, disrespect or hold in contempt. This idea also encompasses judging others, for if we are speaking ill of someone we are doing so because we have judged them by some standard we think they cannot meet.

While we all have people we don’t like, we are responsible for how we handle our disdain. Proverbs 11:12 tells us that keeping our negative thoughts silent shows understanding. We are called to build up one another, not tear each other down (Ephesians 4:29), and silence is a building block when rude comments lurk. Solomon further encourages us that where words are many, sin is present (Proverbs 10:19) and his father David wisely prayed for a guard over his mouth that he might not sin against God (Psalm 141:3).

How can we learn to think before we speak, or, better yet, to transform our thoughts so that we think well of others and speak kindly?

Commit James 1:19-20 to heart: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (NIV)

Read Scripture daily so that you can transform your thoughts as described in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

When you have negative thoughts, do not dwell on them. Stop thinking them immediately and replace them with something positive and Scriptural. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and [to] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV)

 Pray for the person of whom you think ill. Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:44).

Remember your neighbor is anyone with whom you come in contact (Jesus used the parable of The Good Samaritan to explain this in Luke 10:25-37). So, when we consider Proverbs 11:12, we want to speak well of, or keep silent about, anyone we meet. In doing so, we build others up either by positive words or by the sweet sound of silence.

 

Multiplied Blessings

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

Proverbs 11:24-25 (NIV)

In math, when something is subtracted from something else, what is left is always less than the original amount. So, it seems when a person gives away something he should have less than with what he began. When it comes to generosity, however, this math concept does not hold. Proverbs 11:24-25 tells us that when we give freely of our money, time or compassion, we gain more and we find refreshment, not poverty.

How can this be? Think about the times you have shared something with others. Maybe you contributed money to a cause, or provided a meal for a family in crisis, or just gave someone a hug and an encouraging word when she was down. Did you feel like you lost or gained something when you did these things? If you felt that you gained something, what were those rewards? A new friend, a happy heart, greater understanding of what it means to love unconditionally? A returned favor when someone did something generous for you? We do gain more when we are generous!

One aspect of generosity is hospitality. I recently read Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt, a book that inspires us to reach out to others by inviting them into our homes. Her stories and Scriptural reminders that we are called to be in community with others encourage us to learn the true meaning of hospitality and put it into practice.

In her book, Jen explains that excuses such as busyness, insecurity, and fear of rejection can be overcome, and that opening the physical door of our homes and the symbolic door of our hearts to others is both Biblical and rewarding. In addition to her personal stories, Jen also includes testimonies from others and practical ideas to help us navigate the realm of hospitality and learn how to confidently invite others into our homes.

I’ve always enjoyed having people over but more often than not I don’t ask people over enough because of my insecurity about cooking. After reading this book, though, and being reminded of the true meaning of hospitality, I am encouraged to open my door anyway.

Hospitality is serving others, and the following verses are encouraging reminders to do that:

Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)

Romans 12:13 – “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (NIV)

Hebrews 13:16 – “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (NIV)

1 Peter 4:10 – “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)

Generosity is more than adding to someone’s life by subtracting a little from our own. It’s multiplied blessings for both the giver and the recipient!

Words that Nourish

“The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.”

Proverbs 10:21 (NIV)

They can be as sharp as a dart or as tender as a teardrop. They can bring great sadness, incite intense anger, solicit a smile, or warm a heart. They are our words, and they can make all the difference in a person’s day, and ultimately in his or her life.

What do you talk about on any given day? What kinds of words do you use – are they positive and encouraging or are they negative and depressing? Are your words based on godly wisdom or do they reflect worldly knowledge?

Among the 32 verses in Proverbs 10, several refer to our speech and from these verses we gain good counsel on the difference between speaking what is foolish and speaking what is wise. Verse 21, in particular, tells us that godly speech nourishes others. Have you ever experienced a time when someone gave you godly wisdom or encouragement? Do you remember how you felt? I can think of many times in my life when I’ve been uplifted by a verse of Scripture that someone told me or had my heart warmed by their kind words. It’s true: the lips of the righteous do nourish others.

On the other hand, though, foolish words – those hasty, rash or unkind comments – bring destruction. Proverbs 10:8, 10, and 14 all declare that foolish words bring ruin. And Proverbs 10:6, 11 and 13 show us that foolish talk can end in violence and punishment. How often have we lost fellowship with a friend or family member because of the words we said?

If speaking wisely has not been easy for you, Proverbs 10 gives us some insight to what the “lips of the righteous” actually look like:

Wise speech is sometimes simply not speaking. Proverbs 10:19 says that many words are not always needed, and often “holding our tongue” is the wisest thing we can do. Listening can go a long way in a conversation.

Wise speech is speaking at the right time, understanding a situation or person and speaking what is best at that time (Proverbs 10:32). Proverbs 25:11 illustrates the beauty of aptly spoken words: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (ESV)

Wise speech is positive; it speaks life (Proverbs 10:11). Ephesians 4:29 reinforces this: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV)

Solomon encourages us to be wise in our speech – to be a good listener, to speak what is best for a situation, and to use kind words. When we do these things, we nourish others.