Pastoral Letter 14 Jan 2024

My dear readers,

Regard the Least

Proverbs 12:10: “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

Who is a righteous man? Every Christian believes that he is righteous because he says he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Calling oneself a Christian is easy. It is so common that the true meaning of the word Christian has lost its original significance.

The term "Christians" was first used in Acts 11:25-26: "Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." The church in Antioch experienced growth in numbers through the grace of God. Barnabas brought the apostle Paul to the church in Antioch from Tarsus, where Paul lived. From this point on, Antioch became Paul's home church. Paul and Barnabas were sent as the church's first missionaries in Antioch in Acts 13. A Christian is a genuinely born-again believer, not someone who says he is one. He is a follower of Christ.

The Bible is the rule book that guides his life. He experienced the imputation of righteousness into his life when Christ baptised him with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in him, transforming him more and more into the visible image of Christ as he studies God's Word daily. One of the new changes in his life is he has a tender heart, where he shows compassion even toward those who persecute him. He turns the other cheek when slapped. He goes the second mile when asked to go only one mile. He prays for them who despitefully use him for personal gain or other nefarious purposes. He desires the salvation of his persecutors even when they want him dead.

A Christian is righteous, and his compassion toward others is evident.

Proverbs 12:10 illustrates this truth.

The beasts in every Jewish home are the least important compared to his family. The beast may be an ox that helps to till and prepare the ground for farming. If it is an ass or donkey, it is a beast of burden to carry goods or people. The believer will ensure the beasts are well watered if the weather is too hot. If he sees any of his beasts hurt or injured, he will care for them and nurture them back to health. If needed, he will spend money to get them treated or buy medicine to help them recover. The righteous owner understands the contribution of his beasts to his life. They did what they were created for, to provide for their livelihood. But his love and devotion are to his family, friends and neighbours. They are people, whereas the beasts are not! Yet, does it mean that they should treat the beasts callously?

"To regard" is "to know". He knows his beasts, their nature, the type of food they eat, their strengths, and weaknesses. He is considerate and keeps them safe from inclement weather. The health and well-being of his beasts concern him. He cares for them, not because of their usefulness; the beasts fulfilled their God-created nature; they ought to be reciprocated with kindness.

The righteous are believers in Christ who have received the imputed righteousness of Christ from God. Their compassion impacts people and beasts. There is no distinction between them as their new nature in Christ is one of compassion, independent of who the recipients are. It is the nature of every righteous person to show compassion to all people and animals with gratitude.

With the new nature of righteousness, he can’t not be compassionate and kind to all.

In contrast, the “wicked” are cruel. Cruelty is the nature of the wicked. The wicked in the Bible does not just refer to criminals or only those who have committed evil crimes. The word is quite broad in its application. It refers to all who are sinners. They are selfish, for they care only for personal gain. Their morals and ethics are good only when their purposes and personal agendas are served. The moment anyone or anything hurts them, they will retaliate and take revenge if they have the means to do so. Showing mercy or doing good deeds for their fellow human beings will be done with an ulterior motive. However, the most revealing characteristic of their wickedness is their treatment of their Creator God, whom they refuse to acknowledge and worship. They replace Him with a god of their own making, probably making God in man's image. The wicked are in bondage to sin. Sin is their master. They cannot help but do the will of their master sin according to their sinful nature. Only when their sinful nature is removed through Christ and given a new holy nature with the Holy Spirit dwelling in them will they stop being wicked in God's eyes!

Therefore, “the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” in light of this understanding of a wicked person. His acts of kindness toward others are to serve him even as they appear to serve others. Is this not deception? All altruism shown by the wicked is self-serving. He helps the beasts if it benefits him. He builds orphanages and hospitals to promote self. He helps out in the office with the purpose of self-aggrandisement before men. He may assist a student in class with his studies to gain an advantage, either in the present or sometime in the future, for he never forgets to ask for a return favour. The wicked will visit homes to comfort the infirmed to win their loyalty. They will give “love gifts” to buy devotion.

This sad description of the actions of the wicked also applies to the family. Parents who sacrifice their time, money, strength and energy for their children's well-being may appear to be the exception. When we think about parents in their old age, many expect some form of reciprocal kindness from their children, especially when they cannot fend for themselves. The aged parents murmur and make snide remarks about their children's uncaring and ungrateful behaviour to friends or anyone who wishes to listen.

God describes the wicked's tender mercies as cruel. When the expected reciprocal actions do not materialise, the wicked will demand them and tell others how ungrateful the recipients of their help are. The people who do not or cannot reciprocate, or refuse to take their side in an argument will be openly humiliated until they cower to their benefactors. There was a church leader who defended a doctrine until he became indebted to another leader who attacked the doctrine. He was compelled to change his stance. He displeased and sinned against God whom he could not see, and pleased the one who showed him "tender mercies" whom he could see.

The wicked will draw men and women away from the LORD, not with threats, but with their tender mercies. This "tender" approach is more deadly than the "hard" approach of using threats.

With the old nature of wickedness, they cannot show genuine tender mercies.

Where can they best sow their deceptive seeds of “tender mercies”? In the church through the ministries and Bible Studies. All who are righteous, i.e., the children of God, need vigilance to stop and weed out such nefarious and wicked activities.

Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew
Advisory Pastor

  © Copyright 2018 Truth Bible-Presbyterian Church     PDP