Proverbs 21:14 “A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.”

If there is set of “universal laws” concerning the Christian life, this has got to be one of the laws- You can only change you. Each week I share a little thought about some way that each of us can strive to do better, and challenge ourselves to live a little more like Christ. The only person in the world that you can change is yourself. That is why I do not spend much time reflecting on what others do to you, but only on what you can do for others. I am aware, though, that others can cause you pain, through no fault of your own. We live in a world of human beings, and sometimes we are going to be treated wrongly and unfairly. What then?

As you go from day to day, you are going to encounter people who just do not like you, and it may boggle your mind, as you know that you have never done anything mean to them. Let me state again- you cannot hope to change them, but you can keep yourself from becoming bitter. This article is an attempt to remind each of us how to keep our thoughts positive toward people that feel negatively toward us. Let me share a verse that I “discovered” when I was in college. I know this story is silly and trivial, but it does describe the lesson I learned.

I had a friend who had dated the same guy for a few years. They broke up soon after starting college. I knew this guy somewhat, but not well. Well, at least a year after they broke up, this boy asked me for a date. We went on one date, and I realized that we were not meant for each other. Meanwhile, each time that I saw my friend in the hall, she acted very distant. I naturally assumed that she did not like the fact that I went on a date with her ex-boyfriend. I was thinking of a way to “patch things up” when I read Proverbs 21:14  A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.

I looked closely at that verse and I thought, ”A gift in secret- how does the gift cool the anger of the person who gets the gift if they do not know who sent it?” That’s when it dawned on me, the gift does not cool the receiver’s anger, it pacifies the giver’s anger. You are not to give a gift as a bribe to help someone stop being mad at you; you are to give a gift in secret so that you will have no ill feelings toward that person. I decided to try out this verse. I bought a nice gift, wrapped it, and got it to my friend without her knowing who it was from. To this day she does not know that I sent that gift. But, here is what happened. From that day on, whenever I saw her, I knew that I had no bad feelings toward her. That gift changed my heart, and, many years later, we are still friends.

When I say a “gift,” I don’t mean that it has to be a literal present. The Bible says that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mat. 6:21 This means that whatever or whomever we invest in, we will love. If you put “your treasure” in a person, (be it gifts, money, time, good deeds, or prayer), you are going to love that person. The Bible promises that your heart will be with anyone in whom you invest. WOW! I can do that!

Is there someone who has hurt you? How can you keep from hating them? Invest in them. It is simple, but it is not easy. It takes the removal of pride to do this, and pride is hard to remove. If someone is mean to me, the last thing I want to do is invest in them, but that is the only way to insure that I do not live a life of bitterness. By the way, bitterness and hatred only hurts you; it does not hurt the other guy. It is not a good revenge to hate someone, because they don’t get punished, you do. Again, the Bible demands we do the opposite of what is natural. It will take the help of the Holy Spirit.

I used a funny example of a date in college, but I fully realize that there are very serious hurts in this world. I am talking about divorce, yours or your parent’s. I am talking about abuse, physical, verbal, or sexual. I am talking about slander. I am talking about unfaithfulness. I am talking about lies and so many other horrible issues. And yes, to all of these I am saying that the way to save yourself is to invest in that person who has hurt you. Pray for them, do good to them, do not return evil for evil. (Mat 5:44)

We can only change ourselves. God is the only One Who can change others. If you are picturing a certain individual in your mind, then, this week, try giving a gift in secret. Start with prayer for that person. Do something good in return for evil. God will take notice of this kind of living, and He will keep your heart from bitterness and hatred. And, who knows, He may even change the heart of your enemy.