A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself. Proverbs 11:17
As a kid, I remember strangers knocking on our door in the country. City folks, many of them. They were usually lost, out of gas, or broken down. Mom and Dad always helped them with a few gallons of fuel or some makeshift repair on their automobile. I even remember one couple breaking down and staying at our house all night. In all those years, I never remember my parents taking any of the money that was offered to them for the help, service, or gasoline they gave. Never.
"Here, take a few bucks for the gas," someone would offer.
"No," Dad would say. "I’m just glad you appreciate it. But if you want to pay me back, next time you see someone broken down or in need of assistance, help them. That is how you can pay me back."
"A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself."
A kind man benefits himself . . . maybe a man like Abraham? Abraham had his character flaws, but he also had his character strengths. Remember when his nephew Lot was captured in battle? Forsaking his own safety, Abraham raised a band of men and went after Lot and rescued him. Even earlier, when Lot’s herds and Abraham’s herds grew too large for the land to support them, Abraham in his kindness allowed Lot to select the land he would like to move into. That was kindness.
That kindness paid off for Abraham. He was richly blessed by God. That’s not to say, of course, that every time we do something nice for someone we can expect a flood of blessings from heaven in reciprocation. As Christians, we have already received an abundance of blessings from heaven, including our redemption. But in a general way, acts of kindness tend to generate other acts of kindness, and at least sometimes, they come back to us. A kind man benefits himself.
A cruel man brings trouble on himself . . . maybe a man like Ahab? Ahab was the king who wanted the vineyard of Naboth. Naboth was living on land he inherited from his ancestors though, and he wasn’t willing to sell it to the king. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, wasn’t one to let a simple citizen disappoint the aspirations of a king! She conspired with some lowlives to frame Naboth on trumped-up charges and had him executed. Ahab was a cruel man who was later killed in battle. Jezebel was a cruel woman who was later thrown to her death from an upper-story window. A cruel man brings trouble on himself.
A proverb is a truism or principle. A proverb should not be thought of as a rule that always works itself out in the same way in every circumstance. It is a principle that says, "In general, this is a statement that reflects my experience in life."
Somewhere in Solomon’s life, he experienced this truism: "A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself." Perhaps it was a kindness passed on to him he consciously passed on to another who passed it on to another who . . . well, you get the point. Whether it is sharing gasoline with a stranger knocking at your door or sharing food with a hungry child across the street, acts of kindness have a life to them that keep on living and enriching the lives of others.
In my many travels, especially as a college student driving old cars, I have been the recipient of a kind gentleman stopping to offer a hand to a kid who looked like he was in trouble. At times, I’ve offered a few bucks as a thank you. I’ve heard these words echoed from my childhood: "If you want to pay me back, next time you see someone broken down or in need of assistance, help them. That is how you can pay me back."