8 Whoever digs a pit may fall into it;
whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
9 Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them;
whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.
Perhaps you can relate: oftentimes I read right past some verses and passages when their meaning doesn’t jump right out at me. This might have been one of those passages, at least insofar as the application of the meaning, but God decided to reveal some things to me that I needed to hear – I love that scripture is truly alive! I realized that, among perhaps other things, this passage is talking about ministry in general, and is at least applicable specifically to sharing our faith and God’s Word. My hope is that this will be encouraging to those that may be struggling with sharing the word of God with a loved one or even a stranger.
So here’s the deal: We can hurt ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, in pretty much anything we do. You could pinch your finger setting up a table, you could burn yourself cooking, you could lose money investing in the stock market, you could get in an accident driving the car, you could upset someone by giving them advice, and so on. But just because there is potential for injury or emotional hurt, does that mean we automatically don’t do it? No, of course not! While there is risk in everything we do, we typically go about our lives anyway using wisdom to balance our risk. And if we generally go about our lives despite the risk that surrounds everything we do, then shouldn’t we continue to talk about God even though that might upset someone or cause someone to possibly dislike me? Sometimes sharing a bible verse may mean that you metaphorically get ‘bitten by a snake,’ or get made fun or, or perhaps even get persecuted – does this mean we should stop? Does this mean we should compromise our convictions and beliefs simply because we might get hurt? Of course not! We should keep on working for God! King Solomon continues in verse 10 and says:
10 If the ax is dull
and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed,
but skill will bring success.
The ESV translates that last part a little better and says “but wisdom helps one to succeed.” In other words, God gives some instruction here on how to minister to people and how to share His Word. Reading this scripture at a surface level might lead us to believe that if we ‘work hard’ we will be successful. In fact, if you read through some of the comments on this passage on YouVersion, you’ll find that this is the typical interpretation of this passage: work hard and things will be good. And while hard work is important and is definitely related to success, that’s not at all what this passage is saying! King Solomon is helping me to see that my words are dull, my delivery is not sharp, and that even with all the strength I could deliver in my own means I would still not be able to get to someone’s heart. As a friend said to me today, “I’m as dull as a butter knife without God.” This is why it’s important as we “do” ministry and as we seek to help people, that we rely on God and His wisdom and His Word rather than our own. Hebrews puts it this way:
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
This is what brings success: faithfully proclaiming and using God’s Word for ministry. And while this won’t always result in “worldly success,” it will result in success in God’s Kingdom. This verse says that God’s Word is sharper than ANY sword – including our own! God’s Word is sharp even when our word is dull. So, the answer to “how we tell people about God,” and it may be obvious, but it’s to use God’s Word wrapped up in love. I was recently encouraging a fellow Christian friend with a Bible verse, and I received a shockingly defensive response. If you knew me, I’m not a big talker, and I’m not one to criticize. I have to be honest, I was discouraged by her response and I began questioning if I did something wrong, and my husband said to me “if you dig a pit, you may fall into it,” meaning that ministry is not always cut and dry, sometimes people will get mad, sometimes there is going to be a recoil for sharing God’s word, and yet we are called to just keep plugging on. But we need to do it always with love, always with prayer, and always with wisdom, because King Solomon continues in verse 11 and says:
11 If a snake bites before it is charmed,
the charmer receives no fee.
We learn something important here about when we should share God’s word and in a sense how. We can run around and use scriptures to point out people’s sin. We can use scriptures to alienate people. We can use scriptures in ways that will truly hurt them and even drive them away from the gospel if God hasn’t “charmed” them yet. Does this mean we don’t share truth in love until someone is receptive? No, not necessarily. Sometimes we simply need to share God’s Word and deal with getting bitten. Nowhere in the bible does it say that ministry is easy or that people will receive everything we say. Sometimes we’ll get bitten and that’s ok. Maybe God will use our faithfulness to plant a seed; maybe he’ll use it to water one. And maybe, just maybe, one day God will charm them and grow new fruit up into their hearts. So let’s just get out there, trust God, deal with a few snakebites, and ask God to charm those people he’s put around us and to give us wisdom in sharing his Word with them. Amen?