Saturday, June 25, 2011

Proverbs 21:14 commentary

14 ¶ A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.

Abigail had the sense enough to send gifts to David to pacify his presumed anger in 1 Samuel 25 as did Jacob to Esau in Genesis 32. Notice how anger and wrath are at the end of each phrase of this Proverb showing that they are synonymous. In other places wrath is shown to be abiding anger and results in action.

Genesis 49:7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

One of the things to stress about this verse is that the gift, the reward, is given without prior notice of intention to do so. It is a surprise. Many a husband has brought flowers home to his wife to pacify her anger as many a wife has made a man’s favorite meal to abate his. Parents have received a bouquet of dandelions from a small child and the thought ran through their heads; “what has he done?”

There are things that Christ has told His followers to do in secret without broadcasting their actions. He told the Jews, still under the Law, to give their alms to help the poor without identifying themselves for the glory of their kindness.

Matthew 6:1 ¶ Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

He warned them against phony, long winded, and very public prayers in the passage before He gave them a model of how to pray.

5¶ And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Later on, he even tells them to not let other people know they are fasting by their appearance and behavior.

16 ¶ Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

There are principles in these passages that would benefit the Christian were he to follow them. Things that we do publicly for everyone to see have a reward in that public approval and acknowledgement. Things we do privately where no one can applaud us tend to be more meaningful. Certainly they are more meaningful to God.

As Christians with the Spirit of God living inside each of us we are not giving gifts to God in secret to pacify His anger or appease His wrath. We offer up prayers of blessing, extolling God, and praising Him because we love Him and are thankful for what He has done for us. Your giving of an extra healthy offering at church is not going to smooth over the fact that you are a violence loving idolater who worships entertainment personalities and who is addicted to pornography, if that happens to be the case.

So, while this verse might not apply to the Christian on the surface as he is not living under some kind of warped inherited nobility, the persons of which must be bought off to keep them from killing him or stealing his possessions, the principle of giving in secret and doing your works for God without blowing a trumpet before you, I think, is valid. Anything you do for God should be done privately and without fanfare. We have far too many peacocks among the men of the leadership in Christianity, strutting about in expensive suits and immaculately shined shoes, doing what they consider great works for Jesus Christ. I’m not so sure God is as impressed with them as they are with themselves, or as their fans are.

I believe that there is an accounting concept called “Goodwill” where a benefit is gained, not from the profit value of a particular item, but from the reputation gained by the peforming of it. So, I think, and tell me if I’m wrong, that a corporation that has an officer’s picture taken giving an oversized check to a charity is seeking to gain an advantage for its reputation by giving to some socially acceptable and worthy cause. So, Christian, you can do that from a personal standpoint to gain an advantage and a positive reputation or you can do something for God but you can’t do both. Some would even go so far as to say that if you give money to God’s service, such as your church organization, and deduct it from your income taxes at the end of the year, you have gotten your reward and your efforts were not for God, because you received an earthly reward. They were for you.

Keep this in mind the next time you are writing that check to go into the offering plate.

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