Growing up around camp fires, I learned to always try to sit upwind rather than downwind. On nights when the wind was gentle, the smoke would often shift without much notice catching us and stinging our eyes. Squinting helped, but nothing really took away the sting. But event the sting didn’t stop us from sitting around and poking, cooking marsh mellows and listening to the crackle.
We all have someone in our lives who gets lots of eye-rolls when they let us down again. They just can’t seem to rise to any challenge, even when given many chances to do so. They consistently fail to carry out even the most fundamental tasks. Their word is worthless. They promise, but never come through on their word.
We notice this most when we have “given them one more chance” one more time. We trusted them again in hopes that “this time will be different,” but it wasn’t. And they don’t really get how much it hurts us when they let us down. We really want them to succeed. In fact, we probably want it more than they do! Maybe that is part of the problem. We want their success more than they want it. We have more invested in them than they have invested in themselves. We care more than they care.
Our text tells us it is like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes. Neither of these experiences is pleasant. Each has its own pain. Once we have been hit by either feeling, we try to avoid it in the future. The burning is something you want to avoid.
So what is our text trying to tell us? Is it saying that we should not extend grace to those who let us down, the sluggards in our lives? I think it is telling us two things.
First, expect the disappointment if you extend grace. Don’t let it take you by surprise. One way of doing this is to not expect anything in return. Instead of lending money, give it freely without any obligation. If it is given this way, when it isn’t returned, you had no expectation of the return so you are not disappointed.
Second, and perhaps a more painful lesson is that you might have to let them fall. Rescuing them has not worked. If you don’t want the pain if disappointment, don’t extend the help. Give the grace of natural consequences. Let them experience the pain of their laziness. Don’t listen to their guilt-trips and emotional manipulation.