Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!
The NIV says it this way: A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!
Bottom line: The right words at the right time benefits us.
Jesus always has the right words at the right time for everyone. Do you know why? Because he loves everyone.
As Rob pointed out on Sunday, Jesus had genuine love for the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21), but told the man what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
The woman at the well was probably very uncomfortable with Jesus pointing out the facts about her love life, but it was what she needed to hear. In fact, The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him. Jesus telling this Samaritan woman what she needed to hear over what she wanted to hear resulted in her whole town getting to meet Jesus. (John 4:28-30)
There are many more examples, but the truth to carry away is the fact that the right words are fitting and beneficial. They are good. It is good to give people what they need over what I think they want. And completely unnecessary to avoid them.
Every parent knows to introduce vegetables to children early so they will acquire a taste for them. They will automatically enjoy cookies without any encouragement, but a strict diet of cookies is not what they need. I love my children, I want to give them what they need so I shouldn’t avoid the veggies.
Avoiding certain people isn’t loving them. And God calls me to love others (1 John 4:11) and to follow Jesus’ example of loving others. Rather than avoid someone, I should give them what they need.
John Eldredge proposes, in his book The Utter Relief of Holiness, that every human being has a gravitational pull. These are quirks in people’s personalities they’ve most likely developed to protect themselves, yet it produces particular feelings associated with the individual. That is why we are attracted to some, serious around another, dismiss some, and ignore others. But Jesus never treats people according to their gravitational pull. (from pgs. 176-177)
If there’s someone I avoid because I honestly don’t have time for one of their “stories,” shouldn’t I just be honest and tell them I don’t have time? Playing a game of duck and cover to avoid them isn’t loving. But simply stating the truth is. Then when I see that person again and I’m not in a terrible rush, I can freely participate in an interaction with them. Maybe the reason a person with “stories” can go on and on is because no one has loved them enough to require them to wait until a mutually beneficial time to share.
It is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!
Thank you for your Son! Thank you for his example to me. Help me to love people based on truth, not their gravitational pull, or my preferences. Help me to have correct and beneficial words for people at the right time and to state the truth, not avoid it. I love you and pray in Jesus’ name, amen.