Proverbs 3:3-4 Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. (4) So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.
Kindness and Truth. As I read debates on the internet, or even among “friends” on Facebook, I see those two traits are very difficult to hold simultaneously. Most of us have seen those people who so desire to avoid offending another that truth to them becomes personal and subjective for each person. No longer do we hear, “God’s Word says so-and-so, therefore is true (or false)”. Instead, we read something like, “That’s fine for you, but I believe so-and-so.” If truth is based on your belief, it reaches no further than your conscience and dies when you die.
But hey, they have been “kind” to the other person. They are still on speaking terms. They haven’t been defriended. They will still hopefully have future opportunities to witness to them.
On the other hand, more commonly , we see people blast away at their online debating opponents. These types not only want to win the debate, they firmly will to crush and humiliate their opponent. These people are strong on truth, but showing kindness might allow their adversary to escape repentance. So they carry a relentless, verbal pursuit against the adversary who dares to oppose the truth. God’s character is on the line. Ridicule and sarcasm are standard tools to be used. Show him no quarter. Take no prisoners.
Truth has been preserved. Emotional casualties may be high. The human debris field from the battle may be wide, but God and His Word have been successfully defended. He may have been defriended, but he rests satisfied that the truth has not been compromised.
The Bible verses above attest to the fact that both of the above approaches are fatally flawed. Kindness and truth are to be held in tandem. Kindness should always walk with truth. Truth should never forget kindness. The word for neck is a feminine form which denotes that these traits are to be as precious jewels to the person who has them. Writing them on the heart shows that they should be ever in our memory. The picture of binding and writing gives this instruction the idea of permanence. Those two traits are to be integral of who each of us are as a person externally (“Bind them around your neck”) and internally (“Write them on the tablet of your heart”). Thus, not only are our words and actions covered by this command, but also our attitudes.
And what is the result, or pay off, for holding kindness and truth together? “So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man” (v4). Being kind without holding to truth shows a relativistic, pragmatic callousness about a person’s life and soul. But defending truth without being kind indicates an equal callousness toward man as an image bearer of God. Holding both together shows respect for man and honor to God, resulting in the approval of your Master and mutual respect from man. And interestingly, the words above, “So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man”, are echoed in Luke 2.52 as a description of Christ. We know He kept God’s Word perfectly, and thus kept kindness and truth in perfect balance, compromising neither.
But some may point out that Jesus made a whip and cleared the Temple of the money changers. That event certainly occurred. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for someone is what others would consider harsh. Taking somebody to the woodshed, as it were, should never be done in glee. We are commanded, yes, commanded, to build up, encourage, and edify fellow believers (1Th 5.11; Eph 4.29; and Rm 14.19). We are equally commanded to tear down that which is Satan’s strongholds (2Co 10.3-5). A stern rebuke is a serious matter and many times means that something greater is at stake than just someone’s relationship status. Take Paul’s open rebuke of Peter (Gal 2.11ff), the gospel and the character of the Church was at stake. Peter’s error was affecting the entire Church. He had to be publicly rebuked, as his sin was also public. But such a rebuke takes discernment and wisdom as to when to carry it out and how.
There have been many times when I desired to bind (tightly) something around someone’s neck, but on most occasions that reaction would have been self-serving and sinful. Have there been times when I have responded too harshly or too leniently? Undoubtedly. But those times become opportunities to learn, hopefully gain wisdom, and repent.
Words, deeds, and attitudes can be constructive or destructive. They may build up or tear down.
Search all you may, but you will not find a command in Scripture to grow in harshness or to show your spirituality by being contemptuous or contentious toward another person, especially with a professing believer. And yet, we do read that kindness, patience, and gentleness are part of the Fruit of the Spirit.
Be strong in the faith, and hold fast to Truth. And bear the fruit of the Spirit in abundance.