The Inopportune and the Acceptable
Proverbs 25:20, 25
As he that takes away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar on nitre, so is he that singes songs to an heavy heart.…

A man that hath friends must show himself friendly (Proverbs 18:24). And if we would do this we must be careful to choose our time for speaking the truth to our friends, and must study to do not only the right but the appropriate thing. We must -

I. ABSTAIN FROM THE INOPPORTUNE. (Ver. 20.) It should require but a very humble share of delicacy to understand that what is very valuable at one time is altogether misplaced and unpalatable at another. We should carefully abstain from:

1. All merriment in the presence of great sorrow. By indulgence in it then we only add fuel to the fire of grief.

2. The discussion of business or the proposals of pleasure in the presence of earnest spiritual solicitude. When men are profoundly anxious about their relations with God, they do not want us to harass and burden them with talk about temporal affairs or about social entertainments; these are good in their time, but not at such a time as that.

3. Entering into the affairs of life in the presence of the dying. Those who stand very near indeed to the future world do not want to be vexed with matters which they are leaving behind for ever. Similarly, it is a mistake to be always or even often discussing death and the future with those who, while not unready for either, are charged with the duties and responsibilities of active life.

4. An urgent insistance upon spiritual obligations in presence of acute bodily suffering or severe destitution. The Christian course, in such a case, is to call in the doctor or the baker.

II. CULTIVATE THE ACCEPTABLE. (Ver. 25.) How acceptable to the human heart is:

1. Good news from our friends and kindred when afar off from us. It is worth while to take much trouble, to a put ourselves quite out of our way," in order to convey this; it is one of the friendliest of friendly acts.

2. Society in loneliness; the kindly visit paid to the solitary, a conversation (however brief and simple) with those whose hearth is uncheered by companionship.

3. Encouragement in depression. The heart often aches and hungers for a word of cheer, and one very short sentence may lift it up from depths of disappointment and depression into the bracing air of hopefulness and determination.

4. Sympathy in sorrow. Grief does not crave many or fine words; it asks for genuine sympathy - the "feeling with" it; if it has this, it will gratefully accept any simplest utterance in word or deed, and will be comforted and strengthened by it. Real sympathy is always the acceptable thing.

5. Guidance in perplexity. When we do not know which way to turn, then the brief word of direction from one who has "gone that way before us" is valuable indeed. There is no kinder friend than the true and faithful guide. If we would take our part well and be to our brethren all that it is in our power to become, we must study to do the congenial and acceptable thing. The man who has acquired this art is worthy of our admiration and our love; we are sure that he will not go without our Master's commendation; for is it not he who is feeding the hungry, and giving the thirsty to drink? is it not he who is clothing the naked and healing the sick? While we do these two things, should we not also -

III. BE PREPARED FOR EVERY POSSIBLE CONDITION? We may be sure that uncongenial and congenial things will be said to us, timely and untimely attitudes will be taken toward us; some men will aggravate and others will heal our spirits. The wise man will see to it that he is

(1) rooted in those principles which never change but always sustain;

(2) has his strength in the One "with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning." - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.

WEB: As one who takes away a garment in cold weather, or vinegar on soda, so is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Man Trusting in Man
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