God’s Word for You
Proverbs 31:20 Compassionate hands
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, October 25, 2019
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
The eleventh letter in the Hebrew alphabet is kaph, which in this case is also the word before us, since kaph is the name of the letter and the word for “palm of the hand.” The heroic wife finds ways to help people who are in need. In the modern world, this often takes on the form of giving to charities. But Solomon is not just picturing a woman giving a gift with her hand. He is picturing the ideal wife with both hands open (New Jerusalem Bible, “she opens her arms”). She is not just giving money, gifts, or alms, but compassion. Once again Solomon employs the intensive piel verb stem, but here it is not just an idiom we must accept, but a way of life to note. This is the characteristic piel: “She always, again and again, reaches out her hands to the needy.”
Why does she do this? As with everything else she does, it is the result of faith. Faith comes to us through the gospel, and the message of the gospel is the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus. The Lord Jesus came into the world to atone for the guilt of our sins because of his compassion, and his compassion was motivated by his own love, the love of God for man. The compassion of Jesus’ followers reflects that same love, like an image in a mirror. Jesus’ compassion is his love for mankind, and our love for mankind comes from our love for Jesus.
Human love is complex. It is often motivated by self-interest, it is often stained or tainted by other desires or sins, and it is sometimes short-lived. But love, the human love of one person for another, bound by the vows of marriage, is blessed by God, and is strengthened by God’s grace. But it is not their love that makes them pleasing to God, even when their love is charitable and reaches out with both hands to those who are in need. It is their faith in Christ, the very faith that motivates their charity, love, and other good works, that matters to the Heavenly Father.
Perhaps one wife is kind to a certain neighbor, an elderly widow who benefits from being looked after. Perhaps another is generous to one of the many animal foundations or human rights organizations. Another wife might donate her time to help a group in need, or to do whatever she can for a friend who is sick.
Another side of all this is the ideal wife who herself becomes the one in need. Sometimes our Christian life of sanctification, of doing good works out of love for Christ, becomes turned on its head, and we become the ones who receive the sanctified good works of other people. There is probably a balance to be struck here. No Christian would want to ignore a needy friend altogether, but we should also be careful to allow the one in need to do what she can for herself so that she can keep up her sense of self-worth and usefulness.
A kind question, “Is there anything I can do to help?” is the surest path toward helping, and the most loving act. When someone in need is flooded by such sincere questions and kind gestures, be assured that it is like a warm rain shower of love and friendship. It is a whole field of blooming flowers that catch the rays of the rising sun and bring hope where there was only dark night a little while ago. The prayers of concerned friends rise to heaven like columns of fragrant smoke from the campfires of a mighty army gathered around the one true altar of the Lamb.
It will be hard to say Thank You enough, but you can be sure that Thanks and Love are there. The heroic wife is truly blessed who knows how it is to be on both sides of compassionate hands.
Pastor Timothy Smith