Proverbs 11:17

Proverbs 11:17 "The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh."
Proverbs 11:17 Church Buffalo NY
Our world was intentionally designed to be an interactive world.  We were designed to interact with nature and with one another.  According to Genesis 1, God had very specific intentions as it pertains to our interaction with animals and with our fellow man.  No one was designed to be alone.  No one was designed to be in a vacuum.  Never has it been God’s intention for anyone to live under a rock among the rocks.  God enjoys watching living creatures interact with one another.  Based on the hilarious nature of some animals and on the extraordinary mating behavior of other animals, it is clear that the Creator enjoys watching animals socialize and harmonize.  Take some time to observe animals interact in your backyard or to watch the BBC Earth’s “Birds of Paradise Courtship Spectacle” and you’ll appreciate God’s love for interaction.  Our Maker loves to watch men and women interact with one another, especially as it pertains to romance.  Solomon would reference this fact at the end of his book of Proverbs (30:19).

The design for interaction among the living was not just for God’s entertainment nor was it solely for our enjoyment.  The design for daily interaction among the living was also for the revelation and confirmation of character.  Because of inevitable interaction in our world, the content of our soul is always and eventually revealed.  Because interaction with the living cannot be avoided for long, our character is always and eventually exposed.

Put two people in the same room and it won’t take long for their character to be revealed.  Without any interaction, we can easily deceive ourselves into thinking that we possess great virtue.  By ourselves, we can easily think our tongue tamed and our spirit kind.  When forced to share a room with a sibling or to work with a co-worker or to shop among strangers, an unruly tongue and an unkind spirit is soon revealed.  Interaction in the form of sexual attraction and romance is a great revealer of character.  God designed us for sexual attraction and romance because He loves to watch the living interact and because He loves to bring us pleasure.  He also designed us for this intimate interaction because it quickly reveals our character.  Two souls who fall in love eventually (and often quickly) learn things about themselves that aren’t flattering.  Two souls who move in together, regardless of marriage, often learn things about themselves that they didn’t know until living with a member of the opposite sex.  Interaction among the living reveals the character of the living.
 
Interaction with one another reveals who we really are by how we treat others.  By ourselves, we can easily think ourselves kind because we treat ourselves kind.  But when we find ourselves interacting with others, we can’t think ourselves kind if we don’t treat others kindly.  That being said, the human heart is incredibly deceptive and skewed towards seeing the best in itself.  Interaction confronts this slant towards self by the natural human response to interaction.  Like it or not, we naturally choose our treatment of others based on their treatment of us.  If someone is unkind to us, our natural response will be to treat them unkindly.  If someone is kind to us, our natural response will be to treat them kindly.  If someone is impatient with us, our natural inclination is to be impatient with them.  If someone is gentle with us, our natural impulse is to be gentle with them.  While this natural tendency is not always appropriate, it does reveal our character.  This is the Boomerang Effect.

Jesus spoke of this Boomerang Effect in Matthew 7 when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” It’s not always right to do this but that is the natural human response.  One could argue that all living creatures do this.  Strike a dog and it will be inclined to strike back.  Stroke a cat’s neck and it will be inclined to rub up against your leg.  We respond to the living based on their treatment of us. Interaction reveals who we are because what we dish out is what we will be served.
 
Solomon is teaching the same Boomerang Effect in this proverb.  We know a man is merciful or cruel based on his treatment of others.  If a man has deceived himself, he should know whether he is merciful or cruel based on how others treat him.  How we treat people is how people will treat us.  How people treat us reveals who we really are.  Interaction exposes our character.  How we treat people reveals what type of person we are.  How others treat us reveals what type of person we are.  This interaction is designed to teach us that it matters who we are.  This interaction is designed to teach us that it matters how we treat people.  This interaction is designed to confront our character because no one likes being treated poorly and usually we’re treated poorly because we’ve treated people poorly.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for our race to forget that God is constantly watching and assessing our character.  We can easily forget that God hears how we talk to our spouses and children.  We can easily forget that God sees how we treat our siblings and co-workers.  We can easily forget that God observes how we judge our loved ones.  It’s easy to overlook our cruel treatment of people, especially those closest to us.  The Boomerang Effect is a natural phenomenon stemming from a world of designed interaction that is intended to confront our character.  In this proverb, Solomon was teaching what Jesus was teaching in Luke 6:36-38, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” 

In case any person thinks being cruel to the living won’t impact himself or herself, God designed a world of interaction that will eventually and naturally bring that cruelty back to that cruel soul.  In the same way, the merciful will eventually and naturally experience that same mercy from others.

In general, how do people treat you?
 
What we dish out will eventually and naturally return to us.  

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