discernment

Jumping to Conclusions and Too Quick to Commit

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“If you wish to buy back the property, you can buy back the property. But if you do not wish to buy back the property, tell me. Then I will know that I am next in line because there is no other relative except me.” Ruth 4:4 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

“You’ll know a good thing when you see it,” goes a common saying. But it’s also true that things are not always as they seem. As far as good things, another common saying is—If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I often hear people repeat cliches and platitudes like these as if they carry great significance. They don’t. When something is spoken over and over again, it begins to lose its original meaning and value.

The same goes for wanting or wishing for something better or more than what we already have. Winning the lottery loses its luster real quick with all the unintended consequences winning brings—high taxes, expectations of family and friends, difficulties of managing wealth, and so on.

I’ve known pastors of small churches who want bigger ones because they think it would be better. Or, small business owners who want to grow their business bigger for greater income. But bigger is not always better. It brings new challenges and demands many people are not equipped to handle.

I remember observing this as our church body and the other ministries we oversaw grew from start to small to bigger. The changes are dynamic and exponential. These changes impact relationships and the responsibilities and roles new growth and expansion requires.

It can be good but the responsibilities that come with growth and new opportunities are always challenging.

Opportunity brings responsibility

As chapter four begins, we see Boaz seeking out the man who was a closer relative to Elimelech’s family than him (see text below). Boaz understood the responsibility of being a kinsman-redeemer. It wasn’t just about marriage or property.

The role of a kinsman-redeemer was about legacy—the continuation of a family line that could be traced back to the patriarchs of Israel. It was greater than him or Ruth or Naomi. There was a sacred trust to be respected and valued.

Boaz understood the gravity of the situation, so he makes sure there are trustworthy men to be present and witness what he will share with the other kinsman-redeemer. It was an opportunity that carried a great responsibility with it.

This scene takes place at the city gate. This would be somewhat similar to the public squares common in older towns and cities. It would be a public hearing that carried legal and binding commitments.

It might seem that Boaz is setting up some kind of trap for the nearer relative. But it isn’t manipulation in an unethical sense. He set the stage to reveal the true intentions of the other man and himself before the witnesses at the gate.

When presented with the opportunity to acquire property, this man is quick to commit. But there’s more responsibility attached to this property than merely purchasing it. There’s also more to the story but we’ll look at that next time.

Consider before you commit

Here’s the problem with quick decisions and commitments—there’s often more to consider than what we see, hear, or know at first. Most anything of real value requires more attention or responsibility than things of lesser value.

Before making a commitment, we need discernment to assess what we are committing ourselves to with the understanding of the need to be faithful to our commitment once we make it.

Are there times when you’ve been too quick to commit to something or someone?

Reflection—

Opportunities always bring certain responsibilities and require commitment to gain whatever the opportunity holds. Before you commit, ask questions to understand what your responsibilities will be and whether or not you can fulfill it.

Prayer Focus—

When faced with challenges or opportunities, be quick to ask God for wisdom and discernment, and the grace needed to make wise commitments.


Devo Scripture Text

Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so.

Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people.

If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.” “I will redeem it,” he said.

(Ruth 4:1-4 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Waiting for a Conclusion to a Commitment

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“Stay here, my daughter, until you know how it turns out. The man won’t rest unless he settles this matter today.” Ruth 3:18 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Waiting is something most of us don’t do well. Come to think of it—I don’t know anyone who does it well in a consistent manner. We might like suspense in a story but not so much in real life.

American culture is focused on not waiting. We want things now not next week, next month, or next year. Conjecture about what could, might, or should happen fills online and mainstream media. This applies to politics, world events, sports, and the lives of celebrities.

When we send a text or email and don’t receive a timely reply—like, immediately—we’re either offended or wonder what’s wrong! Go to most stores and you’ll find more ready-to-eat or quick-to-prepare food available than the ingredients needed for making a meal from scratch.

Is the drive-through line to slow? Orders are taken before you get to the speaker and menu to order at some fast-food places. If that’s still too slow, there’s an App for that! to get your order in and done so you don’t have to wait at all!

Who wants to wait? No. One.

But the word wait or similar phrases about waiting occur throughout the Bible. Either as an exhortation or an observation of what people did.

Waiting to find out what will happen

This last segment of chapter three may not seem so important but it holds a valuable truth applicable in life for all of us.

After Boaz discovers Ruth laying at his feet in the dark on the threshing floor, he tells her to wait till the morning. He makes a commitment to resolve whether or not he can fulfill her request of taking her in as his wife and her kinsman-redeemer.

In the morning, before she leaves to return home to Naomi, Boaz sends Ruth back with six measures of barley. This is a wise move on his part.

Although we don’t know the exact amount, these six measures could weigh as much as sixty pounds, which is why Boaz tells Ruth—“Stretch out the cape you’re wearing and hold it tight.”

Why would Boaz do this?

Boaz knew Naomi set this situation up. He knew Ruth the Moabitess would not know or understand about the kinsman-redeemer provision in the Mosaic Law. Boaz wanted to reassure Naomi of the commitment he made to Ruth.

When Ruth returns home to Naomi, she shares what happened at the threshing floor, what Boaz said, and shows her the large amount of barley grain. Boaz sent a message to Naomi with this grain—a show of good faith on his promise to Ruth.

Naomi accepts this pledge from Boaz and advises her daughter-in-law to wait. She also assures Ruth of a quick resolve to the question of whether Boaz or the other man would be Ruth’s husband and the kinsman-redeemer of the family property.

Can you relate?

Obviously, Ruth wants to have Boaz for her husband. She knows him, respects him, and trusts him. But there’s a course of action that needs to take place. It can’t be hurried nor interrupted.

Ruth will just have to wait.

As the story continues in chapter four, we’ll see Ruth doesn’t have to wait too long. But it isn’t always that way in our lives. Not everything has a simple or timely resolve as Ruth’s wait.

As I reflect on my own life, I see many times where the wait was significant. Some of my requests and petitions and intercessions in prayer are still not answered. But I know to continue to pray and not give up (Luke 18:1).

Sometimes we wait for answers already given but they weren’t the answers we wanted or expected. This is where discernment is needed with a genuine trust in God as a Father who always has our best interest in mind.

Have you learned how to wait with a genuine trust in the Lord?

Reflection—

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14 NIV)

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; (Psalm 37:7 NIV)

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62.5 ESV)

Prayer Focus—

When you come to a life situation where you need to wait on God, ask Him for the grace and confidence to trust Him, and thank Him in advance as an expression of trust.


Devo Scripture Text

So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “Don't let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.” He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town.

When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don't go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

(Ruth 3:14-18 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Transparent Wisdom

A rich person is wise in his own eyes,

but a poor person with understanding sees right through him. (Proverbs 28:11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 28:1-14 GW)


American’s have a hate-love relationship with wealth. Most people would like to be rich and famous. We fawn over people who have made it big. And yet, we resent them and their wealth when we don’t have it ourselves.

One reason for resentment to rise is the arrogance of those who are rich. Not only do they act and talk as if they’re better than others—they think they’re more right than the rest of us.

Their status and wealth go to their head. But it’s a deception. It’s their own sense of rightness. But other people—especially those poorer than them—often see right through them.

Not all those who are poor understand this. I’ve lived in and visited other nations where despots rule with an iron fist clutching the wealth they’ve stolen from their own people. Still, people continue to elect and support such rulers with a futile hope they’ll benefit in some way.

Those of us who aren’t rich and powerful but who’ve rubbed shoulders with wealthy people in daily life—we know they are people just like us. Their wealth isn’t the problem. It’s how they allow it to affect them.

too often, the rich who aren’t arrogant are the exception

All rich people aren’t arrogant. Some know their wealth and status can disappear or diminish faster than it accumulated. Others see their wealth as a responsibility—they’re compelled to handle it and use it wisely.

Too often, the rich who aren’t arrogant are the exception not the rule.

What about the poor who have enough understanding to see right through the wealthy who are arrogant? Unless we keep our own mind and heart in check, we’ll become resentful rather than discerning.

For many years, I racked up lots of air miles by flying overseas often. This gained me certain benefits and privileges. On one flight, after taking my seat in the economy section of the plane, I was upgraded to business class.

As I made my way upfront towards the privileged section, another passenger made snide comments to me in an effort to make me feel bad. His misplaced resentment was because of jealousy and his own desire for the same privilege.

We only see through a rich person’s arrogance and false sense of rightness when we have sensible values and the perspective that comes with understanding.

A few verses prior to verse 11 above, we’re reminded of something important—

Better to be a poor person who has integrity than to be rich and double-dealing. (Prov 28:6 GW)

If we don’t want to be filled with resentment towards those who are rich nor caught up with the desire for their riches, we need integrity—a soundness of character.

When our values and sense of worth aren’t attached to what’s fleeting and tied to this life only, we’re more apt to be content with what we have, appreciate the people in our life, and be confident in who we are as a person.

we need integrity—a soundness of character

When we have integrity and true understanding, we’ll see people for who they are and things for what they are. And this carries over into the next life.

Reflection—

When our values and sense of worth aren’t attached to what’s fleeting and tied to this life only and when we have integrity and true understanding, we’ll see people for who they are and things for what they are.

Prayer Focus—

If you struggle with resentment towards the rich and powerful, ask for God’s wisdom so you can have a better perspective on everything. Ask for discernment and understanding. God promises to give us the wisdom we lack (James 1:5).

©Word-Strong_2019


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Separating Truth from Emotion

Anger is cruel, and fury is overwhelming,

but who can survive jealousy?

Open criticism is better than unexpressed love.

Wounds made by a friend are intended to help,

but an enemy’s kisses are too much to bear. (Proverbs 27:4-6 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 27:1-16 GW)


It can be hard to separate truth from emotion—whether it’s the emotion of the speaker of truth or the emotion of the hearer. Our human tendency is to react rather than listen and consider what we hear before responding.

Too often, we allow our emotions to drive us but emotions cloud and even corrupt how we hear or say things. And so, the meaning or intention of what’s said is obscured or filtered through the emotions of the speaker or the hearer or both.

The ability to separate emotion from words of truth is a valuable quality. Discernment and discretion are needed to gain this ability. The intention of the book of Proverbs, as made clear in the beginning (Prov 1:1-7), is to help a person gain this ability.

Strong emotions

The first verse of these selected verses in Chapter 27 gives us a sense for why emotions cloud our understanding of what is said by others. Words spoken in anger have an intent to hurt, put down, or belittle a person. The phrase—lashed out in anger—describes the cruel intent of words spoken in anger—like the snap of a whip burning or slicing the skin.

Fury is out of control anger—unrestrained like a flood of water or a raging fire. But jealousy is an irrational and untamed emotion. A combination of hate and love. It’s destructive. This brings the question—who can survive jealousy?

It destroys any relationship with its impact on both the jealous person and the one who’s the focus of the jealousy. As one person put it—jealousy [is] jaundice of the soul. Jealousy is like a disease with trust and truth its only cure.

Understanding the impact and power emotion has on words spoken and heard helps give insight for the other two verses—5-6.

You might wonder—How can open criticism be better than expressed love? One simple observation is the former is known while the latter is hidden. But it’s deeper than that. Love is left unexpressed because of fear or indifference. There may be other reasons for love to remain unexpressed but it’s still an unknown truth.

Criticism—even when it comes across in a harsh manner—is more or less an observation. As a pastor, I’ve heard plenty of criticism over the years. It goes with the work and position. When said, it was often not intended to be beneficial nor expressed in a constructive way. But it was expressed.

Learning to separate truth from emotion

I had to learn to hear it in an objective way. As the expression goes—chew the meat and spit out the bones. It’s hard to extract the truth from criticism or a rebuke or a reprimand unless it’s detached from emotions.

In other words, although hard to do, don’t take it all to heart. If we can learn from criticism and correction, we’ll gain insight and wisdom. If we can’t, we lose an opportunity to grow beyond our self—beyond self-focus, selfishness, self-pity and so on.

This is especially true when it comes from someone close to us—Wounds made by a friend are intended to help.

The last two phrases of the third verse brings Jesus to mind for me. Reading through the gospels it’s hard not to notice Jesus used some strong words with His followers. They get rebuked and reprimanded for spiritual dullness (Matt 15:16) and for missing the point—the greater concern (Matt 16:8-12; Mark 10:13-16).

Jesus can also relate to the second half of the last verse. He was betrayed with a kiss by one of His followers (Judas). Betrayal is similar to jealousy because it’s insidious. It’s indefensible. Not only is betrayal cowardly, a person can’t defend them self or prevent it because it’s secretive and underhanded.

Except Jesus. Jesus knew He would be betrayed and knew His betrayer. He even washed His betrayer’s feet the night He was betrayed. Once again, Jesus shows us He can relate to everything we experience in this life—even flattery and betrayal.

It’s a valuable ability to separate truth from emotion just as Jesus did.

Reflection—

It’s a valuable ability to separate truth from emotion. We need wisdom, self-control, discernment, and discretion not to be ruled by our emotions or someone else’s. The wisdom of Proverbs can be helpful and valuable to gain these qualities and gain this valuable ability.

Prayer Focus—

When you find it difficult to hear criticism or correction, ask God to help you sift through what is said without your emotions or the other person’s emotions clouding what may be helpful insights. Remember, the Lord knows what it’s like to be criticized and betrayed. Trust in Him.

©Word-Strong_2019


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A Bird, a Curse and a Contradiction

Like a fluttering sparrow, like a darting swallow,

so a hastily spoken curse does not come to rest.

Do not answer a fool with his own stupidity,

or you will be like him.

Answer a fool with his own stupidity,

or he will think he is wise. (Proverbs 26:2, 4-5 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 26:1-12 GW)


Opposites are not absolute and they’re not mutually exclusive, that is, they don’t offset or cancel each other out.

Black and white are opposites but aren’t of equal strength, nor are they a perfect balance in the color spectrum. Black is an absence of visible light, while white is the presence of all visible wavelengths of light.

Darkness as a quality of black—the absence of light—does not absorb or destroy light. Light disburses and shines in the midst of darkness, as displayed in a nighttime sky full of stars. The light penetrates the darkness.

It’s a common thought that opposites either cancel one another or are held in some perfect balance in nature. But this is not true. Spring declares this in the cycle of seasons, as do vegetation and life from seeds buried in the ground.

Good does not exist in a perfect balance with evil. At times, it may seem as if evil is stronger than good. But goodness will overcome evil. This is the theme of redemption—the existence of evil will come to an end. It is overcome by God’s goodness.

Those who trust in God—true believers—have this hope in their hearts (Heb 6:19) and we are exhorted to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21). the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a testimony of this. Death is overcome by life.

Evil is overcome and subdued by God’s goodness. Light is greater than darkness. Faith in God is trust—a confidence in God who is the source of light and goodness and life itself.

Fear God not curses

This is why we don’t need to fear curses nor be bound by superstition. When someone expresses a curse on us, it only has power if we allow it to be stronger than God in our mind and heart.

A hastily spoken curse has no power. Or, as it says in another version—it’s without cause.

An illustration of this is found with Balaam the prophet who could not pronounce a curse on the Jewish people. Although paid to do so, he couldn’t unless the Lord originated it (Num 23:8).

We are not to fear the curses or threats or insults of others. The Lord whom we trust is greater than those people and their words. We need to fear God who has power over our lives for eternity rather than the evil of people (Matt 10:28).

Just as swallows and sparrows never seem to rest but dart and flutter and fly around—so are words spoken against us. Don’t take them to heart. Don’t allow them to nest in your mind. Trust in the truth of God—the One whom you trust above all.

The value of discernment

This brings us to what seems to be contradictory statements. Do we answer a fool with their own stupidity and foolishness or not? Which is it? It depends.

The point of this paradoxical proverb is the need for discernment. An awareness and wisdom for the situation. At times, it’s best not to answer someone’s foolish talk, even when it’s directed at us. But sometimes foolishness needs to be confronted with the truth.

How can we know which to do when? There is no trustworthy formula or grid to figure this out. No set answers. We need discernment and wisdom. We need to be aware of the situation and alert to what the Spirit of God stirs in our heart and mind (Matt 10:16-20).

The one thing we don’t want to do is react. We are not to be driven by dogma nor controlled by our emotions. I see this too often in social media and it accomplishes nothing good. Here is where discernment needs to lead to discretion.

Think before you speak or answer a person who spouts what you see as foolishness. Listen to the Spirit of God rather than the voices of people. As James said so well—

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…. (James 1:19 NIV)

The noise of the world around us can get loud. And so are the voices competing for our attention. Everyone seems to have an opinion and feels entitled to express it. But at what cost? And what value does it really hold?

The short of it is this—people of faith are not at the mercy of the world’s whimsical wisdom because we can draw from the source of true wisdom, God’s wisdom. So let us live accordingly—guided by the Lord’s wisdom with discernment and discretion.

Reflection—

Evil and foolishness are overcome by God’s goodness and truth. When we rest in the wisdom of God and rely on His Spirit, we can learn when and when not to answer the voices of those around us. We can live as a living testimony of His goodness.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself plagued with harsh words, ask the Lord to direct you in His Word—the Bible—to counter them with the truth. When confronted with foolishness, pray for discernment and wisdom and discretion.

©Word-Strong_2019


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