Pastoral Letter 25 Feb 2024
My dear readers,
Do you Cover Shame?
Proverbs 12:16: “A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.”
No one likes to be a fool. There are many types of fools in the Bible. There is the fool, Nabal, whose name literally means “a fool”. Psalm 14:1: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” The word “fool” refers to a person who is stupid because he is disgraceful like Nabal. This is the Hebrew word in Psalm 14:1 where he is a fool because he is surrounded by the evidence of the presence of God in creation that speaks night and day that God exists. He is powerful, but he refuses to see.
Then, there is the fool who is blind to his own mortality and wastes his life pursuing vanity. Psalm 49:10: “For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.” Here the word “fool” is a person who is dense or thick in the head as he is blind to the evidence around him. Can he not see that man dies? Why would he continue to hoard and amass wealth, knowing that upon death all he has amassed will be left for others?
Proverbs 12:16, like verse 15, speaks of a fool who is perverse. The literal translation is: “A fool, in that day, his wrath is known, but the one who covers shame is prudent.” He may appear normal and calm and even demonstrate a pleasant personality in public. Friends and relatives may even regard him as a kind-hearted person who is patient and longsuffering for they have never seen him angry in public, not toward anyone, especially his wife and children.
However, within his soul is a simmering volcano that only his family knows. They experience a dark side of him that brings fear and trepidation that no one outside their family will believe. He has his violent streak that may “explode” out of nowhere. No one knows exactly what triggers his dark side. Harsh words and rage explode, targeting the ones closest to him, especially his wife, who bears the greatest brunt of his outburst. He stops at physical violence because marks will be seen by others. He wants to continue his charade of a gentle soul. The children cower in fear of him when he comes home from work, not knowing which father will enter the door. He can be kind and playful with the children and even show some semblance of love and care on some days. But every act of kindness can suddenly be erased by his outburst of tantrum and rage.
No one can reason with him because he thinks “all is well with his soul.” He deludes himself into thinking he is a good husband and a great father. This makes him unteachable and stuck in his blinded waywardness. He gets from bad to worse with time. When in church, he and his family present an image of godliness. Other than his family, only God knows that the dark secret is hidden well.
He thinks he is wise, but God calls him a fool. He is a perverse person who thinks he can hide from God. He fears man rather than God because of his hypocrisy. His failure and refusal to admit the pain and hurt he is doing to his family makes him a perverse person because, as the head of his family, he is supposed to protect and provide for them a home that is peaceful, tranquil, where all can grow in the grace and knowledge of God in Christ! However, the opposite is true. He is his own worst enemy, and to his family! The protector becomes the invader. He is supposed to be the builder of his home; instead, he is the destroyer. He is called a fool, i.e. perverse, in God's eyes because of what he is doing to his family.
We all have anger, an emotion given to man when God created him in His image. When sin enters, all the attributes of God’s image in man are corrupted, including anger. Uncontrolled and unjustified outrage is clear evidence of the sinful nature. Upon salvation, the image of God in man is restored in Christ. That is why the Bible instructs believers to become more and more like Christ, who is the express image of God, for he who has seen Christ has seen God! All believers have the strength from God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to control their temper. Even in times of righteous anger, they will not sin against God. If they ever do, it will become more infrequent as they mature in Christ; they will always repent and return to God.
The Bible says that the believer will cover shame. God calls him prudent.
Firstly, it is to cover the shame of others. All of us make mistakes. The gossiper will reveal the shame of others. The believer will do the opposite. He will not speak of the shame of others to other people, especially when the person has already repented. The believer’s desire is for the one who made the mistake to repent and rebuild his life, and witness for Christ. Revealing his shame to others will retard his progress or even destroy him. How will the destruction of a fellow believer’s holy witness glorify God?
He also knows that if the person is a sinner in need of Christ, he will cover his shame as well. The believer knows that he was in such a state of depravity before his salvation and thus he will empathise with the sinner by covering his shame, to help him receive Christ as his Lord and Saviour. He covers his shame by stopping others from revealing the shame. He rebukes them and tells them to stop doing the devil's work and spreading the shame to others, for this is what the devil does.
Secondly, he covers the shame of others because he knows that his Heavenly Father is watching. He knows he has been saved and left behind on earth to build up the faith of others on behalf of Christ and not to tear them down. He has been blessed with the mind of Christ to empathise and not to condemn in self-righteousness. He understands the just retribution of God, for just as he does not desire others to reveal his mistakes, so he does not wish to do the same to others just as Christ taught him. Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
The opposite of not covering shame is to spread shame. The believer who keeps silent when he knows that someone is spreading the shame of others makes that believer a partaker of the gossiper’s sin. God calls the believer who covers shame prudent, for his actions are carefully considered, always with the future of everyone concerned in mind. How will this help the sinner know Christ so that he will not die in his sin and be cast into hell?
How can I build up the faith of a believer if I were to keep silent when another person gossips and slanders that believer? This must not be confused with the ministry of warning, which is what the Bible teaches all believers to do to help and protect fellow believers from the snares of the evil one. But believers must not hide behind “the ministry of warning” and gossip! The fine line must be drawn clearly in every believer's heart.
Not only must believers control their anger, they must help others control theirs. To cover shame is to help others overcome their sin, for we were once sinners condemned, but now, by God’s grace, we are sinners saved by grace. Let us all cover the shame of one another and be called prudent by God.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew