Creative Gifts

“A gift given in secret soothes anger, and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.”

Proverbs 21:14 (NIV)

Lately, I’ve had some extra time to read and decided to check out a few of John Grisham’s books. When I was in college, I read through several of his books, but somewhere along the way lost interest in legal thrillers. Currently, though, I’m reading through another one of his novels and it’s always intriguing to me to read about the loopholes in our legal system and how bribery and gifts are used to buy favor in the court system. So, when I came across Proverbs 21:14 which mentioned bribery and secret gifts, my first thought was how can that be godly?

For the most part, the book of Proverbs reads as a list of godly and ungodly ways of doing things, with many of its proverbs contrasting the two choices. Verse 14, however, doesn’t really make a moral statement or show a choice between two actions. Instead, it states two simple facts about human nature – a gift can often soothe anger and the gift, itself, is best given in secret.

I read several commentaries on this verse and understand it to mean that we can use a gift given privately to someone to help diminish his or her anger against us. We give our gift privately, without fanfare or others knowing about it, so that the person who is angry with us will know we are doing it for him or her only and not as an ostentatious show of our “generosity.” For, if the other person believes we are giving the gift simply for the sake of being seen, rather than out of sincerity, we will most likely incur wrath and anger, rather than gratitude, from that person.

In the Bible, Jacob gave a gift to pacify Esau (Genesis 32-33), and Abigail gave a gift to David to save her husband’s life (1 Samuel 25:1-35). In both of these situations, anger was pacified, and there wasn’t any hint of immorality in these actions because the motivation for giving the gift was restoration. God commands us to honor and respect our parents (Exodus 20:12), feed our enemies (Proverbs 25:21), leave vengeance to him (Romans 12:19), love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), resolve conflict before bringing him a gift (Matthew 5:23-24 ), and live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). If giving a gift to another will help us do any of those commands, we should do it.

On the other hand, if we are giving a gift to someone to subvert justice or buy favor from an official (aka the story lines usually found in a legal thriller), this may pacify anger but it will not ultimately end well because God sees our hearts and we will be judged on our motives as well as our actions (2 Corinthians 5:10).

I’ve always thought Romans 12:9-21 was the secret to living a peaceful life with others, but it is a tall order to fill. We’re all individuals who like our own way, so it’s easy for anger to creep into a relationship, but not impossible to pacify that anger. Maybe giving a creative gift in secret is the remedy that will help you restore a broken relationship.

Gifts do not have to be expensive, or even bought items, but they should be thoughtful. Your gift could be something as simple as a handwritten note or running an errand for someone. Pray for the right time to give a gift to the person with whom you seek restoration. When you do this, you are seeking peace with others and obeying God, who wants broken relationships to be restored.

 

Blessings Beyond This Life

“The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.”

Proverbs 20:7 (NIV)

A funeral, a wedding and the birth of a new baby have been the experiences of three of my friends over the past three days. It has been an honor to pray for and attend these three milestones that cause us to look back and reflect on our own lives as we honor and celebrate the lives of others. While weddings and births are obviously times of great celebration, funerals are also a time of great celebration because the person they honor is now with God in heaven.

My next-door neighbor, Evelyn, passed away at age 96 last week. She led an amazing life, one that reflects Proverbs 20:7. My family met Evelyn seven years ago, when she could still get around with the aid of a walker and could still speak fairly coherently. Any time I visited with her, I always left feeling blessed because she was such a woman after God’s own heart. She would tell me stories from her amazing life – she was a mother of four but she also adopted four children and she had multiple grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. Her sitting room walls were covered with little oval photos of all the members of her family. She loved people and always had a smile on her face. I believe this was because she allowed God’s love to shine through her.

Listening to Evelyn’s pastor read from her Bible at her funeral further reiterated what was important to Evelyn – her relationship with the Lord and her desire for others to have that same relationship. She was heeding Solomon’s advice to fear the Lord and to live a righteous life. And because of that, her children have been blessed. They can find comfort that Evelyn is with her Lord and Savior in heaven, and they can remember and be inspired by her example of living for the Lord.

As I reflect on how Evelyn lived her life, her example encourages me to live a life that shines brightly for the Lord. In doing this, I will leave a legacy of blessing for my own child and for anyone who crosses my path. We have this life to live for the Lord, so let us live it for him and leave blessings behind us that will last beyond our own lifetime.

 

Feed Your Inner Light

“The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all his innermost parts.”

Proverbs 20:27 (ESV)

I first heard the request, “Let us be a light shining for you” when I was in a girls’ Bible study with Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru). This has been one of my favorite images to share with our daughter and it’s always part of our prayer before breakfast each day. It’s one of those things that encourages us to remember who we are (Christians) and whose we are (God’s children).

This idea of being a light means that we must have a properly-working inner light that can shine forth. This inner light, our conscience, is noted in Proverbs 20:27. Different translations call it the lamp of the Lord, the candle of the Lord and the Lord’s light. They all reflect the idea that our innermost being, our spirit, is never hidden from God. It is our moral compass, that part of us that lets us know whether or not we are acting in a way that honors God.

Have you ever heard a still, small voice telling you not to say something, or not to do something? I like to talk and I often wish my mind and my mouth had a disconnect between them. Every thing I think really does not need to be said. So, I’m learning to listen for and heed the voice I hear from within that tells me I do not need to express something and just listen instead. That’s my spirit keeping my light shining and keeping me from snuffing out any witness I might have.

Psalm 119 encourages our spirit to seek God and to grow closer to him through reading and meditating on his word. Actively studying God’s word is fuel for our inner light. Prayer also helps to keep our lights shining. The more we talk with and listen to God, the closer we will be to him and the better we can know how to reflect him.

God is the originator of any light we have: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” ( 2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV). Our lights can only be maintained by our knowledge of God’s word and our willingness to listen to him and follow his commands.

 

The UnHappy Meal Incident

“A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.”

Proverbs 19:3 (NIV)

One of my favorite summertime memories as a child was getting to spend a week with my Granny at her house – getting to have her all to myself and being away from home for several days. One summer, though, I shared her with my younger cousin Casey for the week. Casey is 10 years younger than me and this particular year he was two or three years old. If ever there was a definition for a bouncing baby boy, he was it. I laughed so hard over his antics that week that my face hurt, especially over something I refer to as the “UnHappy Meal Incident.”

Granny had taken us through the McDonald’s drive-through for Happy Meals, and as usual, Casey was bouncing around next to me in the back seat of my granny’s tan 1975 Chevelle Malibu. Keep in mind this was the early 1980s and wearing seatbelts wasn’t strictly enforced yet. And, Happy Meals didn’t come in sacks then but these cool boxes with handles that looked like the Golden Arches.

While Casey was bouncing up and down, he was also tossing his Happy Meal box into the air and catching it … that is, until Granny slammed on the brakes to avoid running through a stop sign. Casey’s Happy Meal, in the air at the time of the stop, landed behind him as we flew forward. Then, as we settled back into our seats, down he went on his Happy Meal. In a split second he pulled the squashed box up and, with all his toddler might, thrust it toward the front seat, shouting, “Granny, look what you made me do!!” Our exasperated Granny simply replied, “Casey!”

Have you ever done something foolish and blamed the consequences of your unwise actions on someone else? It’s so easy to pass the buck, isn’t it? Even more, have you ever blamed God when you suffered because of your own folly? Proverbs 19:3 explains to us that even when we cause our own ruin, our human nature is quick to blame God.

How can we learn to own our folly and not pass on the blame? We should remember:

  1. God is the giver of all good things. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV).
  2. We are responsible for our own actions. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8, NIV).
  3. We need to daily confess our sins to the Lord. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13, NIV).

When we choose to engage in folly, we will ultimately suffer the consequences, and the fault will be ours. However, when we confess our sins to God, he is faithful to forgive and we can find restoration (1 John 1:9).

Going back to the Happy Meal story, my cousin Casey still enjoyed his fries even though they were strewn across the back seat, and we still had plenty of fun that day. However, I don’t think we went to McDonald’s again that week!