Say someone you’re close to is going through a major health crisis…so as a good person off you go to their house. But soon this visit becomes very awkward, for the more you talk and ask questions, the more frustrated and angry the person becomes. Abruptly the visit ends with you walking out wondering why you feel discouraged and angry when all you wanted to do was to encourage and comfort that person. Aristotle referred to anger as desire with grief. And this verse in James should be a guide as we deal with those going through critical times. Listening should be the only goal we have…not preaching…not pumping the person for details…nor personalizing the visit with every awful thing we’ve gone through. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent.” I remember hearing a story about Mother Teresa, that when she visited the dying she rarely spoke…instead she just held them, stroking their face, and listening. When your only agenda is to listen…you are validating that person and giving consideration to what they’re going through without bias or opinion. They are then free to explore and verbalize their internal dialogue as they work through their emotions. Just listening can then become the greatest gift you can give that person.
What does God hate? The short list is right here in this proverb. God tells us over and over again not to have a relationship with any kind of unethical or immoral activity. But our pride and arrogance makes us think we know more than Him, so off we go, dabbling in things that confuse and slowly draw us in. And before you know it, we’re snared by the grip of sin. But even then, our willful and obstinate nature refuses to accept responsibility and turn away from the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Our corrupt human nature is constantly pulling us away from what is right and good…when God is telling us to shun evil and put away all our wicked ways.
Let’s look at this verse beyond just comparing a sluggard to a hard-working individual. Rather, I’d like you to apply this verse to your work for the Lord. Do you feel your life is full of steady, earnest and energetic efforts in fulfilling the Lord’s plan and purpose in your life? Or do you feel your spiritual life is dominated mainly by apathy,and idleness? Lazy hands and for that matter, lazy hearts, cause us to squander the gifts God has so graciously given us. But diligent hands not only brings spiritual wealth, but an abundance of peace and joy to the worker.
God is a generous giver and His desire is to bless us. It says in James 1:17 that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” So as big-hearted as God is towards us, we need to reflect that generosity in our giving to others. But He’s not just talking about money here…for it’s easy to give money. No, He’s talking about our time…and we’re probably more tight-fisted about that than any amount of money we’d give. Proverbs 21:26 tells us, “The righteous give without sparing.” So if you’ve been stingy with your time for the Lord…think of this…you will never be able to out give God.
A Holy Spirit empowered ministry is bold and fearless. Psalm 138:3 says, “You made me bold and stout-hearted.” And this Scripture is so true…for under our own power we’re nothing but scaredy-cats. It’s the Holy Spirit that endows our soul, spirit, and self with confidence and courage. It’s the Holy Spirit that gives us the trust to place our total dependence and hope on God alone.
When the Holy Spirit is deeply embedded in you and what you do, the Lord takes great delight. But you also need to remember that it’s about the people you touch, not about the things you think you need to accomplish. Projects are wonderful…outreach into the community, volunteer work, leading Bible Studies, etc. But they only become notches in your gun if that’s the sole reason you’re doing them. Sorry to say, but touching others for Christ isn’t about you at all. It’s about demonstrating God’s love in tangible ways to others and pointing them towards Jesus.
You can ask my husband, I intentionally engage checkout clerks, wait staff and anyone else who may be helping me. I am polite and courteous, asking how their day is going and allowing them to talk. I ask thoughtful questions and encourage them with kind-hearted words. The other day I was speaking to a sleepy looking cashier at a large retail store…come to find out he had worked until 1am and was back again at 4am for his next shift. Sadly, we become so focused on our own agenda…our own needs…our own impatience – that we totally forget that it’s another human being standing in front of us, with their own story. I challenge you this holiday season to give a kind word to all those assisting you…for you don’t know how it may cheer them up.