Originally published on the Loving the Lord Blog on March 21, 2013.
I am the oldest of four siblings - three sisters ages 12-19, and an eight year old brother. Over the past few years, the Lord has really opened my eyes to see His incredible plan for my sibling relationships and the amazing opportunity I have to influence my siblings for good. Our sibling relationships are often the longest relationships we have, since we know our siblings our entire life. Siblings are also special because they are hand-picked by God, just for us!
So what does God intend for our sibling relationships? If you’ve grown up in Christian circles like me, you’ve probably heard lots of good teaching on learning to get along with your siblings. And maybe, like I did, you think that you already have a pretty good relationship with your siblings. But two years ago, a friend challenged me with the words, “You need to do more than just not fight with your siblings. You need to be discipling them.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. From that day on, I looked at my sibling relationships in a whole new light.
The Lord began to show me that He had more in mind for us than “not fighting” and even more than “having fun times”. I actually needed to embrace the responsibility of truly loving them, which meant caring about how they were doing spiritually… in other words, discipling them. The exciting thing is that discipleship is the most important work that Christians are called to do! Right before Christ ascended to heaven, He left His disciples with one last command, which is what we call the great commission:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “…go and make disciples of all nations, …teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus Christ tells us that discipleship is the work that He has left us here to do. That’s my job from Christ, and it starts right in my own family. I not only get the privilege of sharing their lives, but of helping to shape them into the people that they will become.
So what does it take to be
This interview article appeared originally in the Spring 2015 issue of The King's Blooming Rose magazine.
Proverbs 31:26: She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
Thank you Rachel, for sharing with us in this interview. Can you briefly introduce yourself and your family/surroundings?
My name is Rachel Gray and I’m 23 years old. I live in Washington state with my family in a quaint German house that my Grandfather hand built. I love espresso, organization, reading theology, and am passionate about discipleship and passing the faith on to the next generation. Being the oldest in my family, I've had to work on having the law of kindness on my tongue- a common challenge, I think, for most oldest siblings. ;)
In this issue of KBR, we are looking at the Proverbs 31 woman, on whose tongue is the law of kindness. What does this mean? Are our words important (see James 3)?
Growing up, I always thought that Proverbs 31:26 meant that the Proverbs 31 woman is so kind, that it is like a “law” that no unkind word passes from her lips. But a few years ago, I did a word study on this verse and was surprised at what I found. Actually, the Hebrew word for “law” here is the common Hebrew word “torah”, which refers to God’s law, specifically the first five books of the Old Testament. So this verse literally reads, “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the torah of kindness.
What the Bible is telling us about the Proverbs 31 woman is that she speaks Scripture, she literally has Scripture on the tip of her tongue. So while the Bible clearly teaches that we are to be gentle and kind in our speech (Eph 4:32, Col 3:12), this verse is adding to that understanding by pointing out that the law is kindness.
When we apply the Word of God to life, it brings life and healing to our sin-infested lives. We often think of the law as harsh or strict, but it is God’s very words to us about how to live in a way that is consistent with His character; character that is the very essence of kindness and love (1 John 4:8). In order to know what is truly kind and loving, we go to God himself. I think what is being portrayed here is the same idea expressed in Ephesians 4:15 when it commands us to speak the truth in love. We cannot be loving if we don’t speak the truth, but we also should speak the truth in humility and gentleness. These two things go hand in hand.
One application I have taken from this is that I should try to speak the Scriptures. It is so easy for me to speak my own opinion when giving counsel to my siblings or friends. I have really been convicted in this area over the past year, because a huge piece of discipleship is training others how to find the answers themselves in the Scriptures.
For instance, if two young children are fighting over a toy, the appropriate response from me is to use Scripture, which brings conviction to their hearts (Hebrews 4:12), in saying something like, “Johnny, why are you fighting for this toy with your sister?" (James 4:1). After some discussion, he should be able to see that it is his sin of selfishness that makes him fight. From there, I can lead him to see his need of repentance, and his need of a Savior. That opportunity is missed if I merely say, “Johnny, you need to be nice to your sister.”
Another important reason for using the Scriptures is that it keeps us from making ourselves the highest authority. We need to point others to God, and not set ourselves in His place- either in our own minds, or in the minds of those we are helping. If I counsel a friend without appealing to the Scriptures, I am encouraging her to follow me, rather than pointing her to the Bible. Using the Bible also adds more weight to our words, because it calls the person to their responsibility to obey God.
Some sisters (especially older ones) struggle with a nagging attitude toward their younger siblings, which comes out in constant words that belittle or criticize their siblings. How do we seek a balance between encouraging our siblings to do what is right, and overstepping our bounds and being nagging and annoying, causing bitterness in their hearts? If you see a sibling is doing something they should not do, how do you usually deal with the situation? Do you kindly give them a hint, or directly inform your parents of the situation? How do you try to not be a constant tattler?
Our words are critically important. I have seen this starkly portrayed in my friends’ lives. While some of them speak to their siblings in loving, kind ways and have fruitful and joyful relationships, sadly, I also know girls who have a sharp tongue and speak angrily to their siblings, and their withered relationships bear the fruit of it (James 3).
Anger is relationship poison. When I am angry (and anger can be manifested in a raised eyebrow or a condescending tone, not just yelling!), I am injecting poison into my relationship with that person. A few years ago, I realized that when I am angry, it is usually because in some way that person has offended me, and I am trying use my anger as a weapon to manipulate or force that person to obey me. Once I realized that, it helped me to overcome my anger and instead, learn to appeal to them on the basis of God’s word. It requires taking a deep breath, putting aside my own selfish desires, and patiently working through the situation. I think the key here is that if we feel angry, chances are, we are angered at how their sin is inconveniencing us, not really how their sin is offending God and harming our sibling. We then need to deal with our own sin (usually self righteousness is at the root here, in thinking that we would never do what our sibling just did to us) before seeking to deal with theirs (Matt 7:3).
Matthew 18:15 shows us the path of avoiding a tattletale spirit: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” The following verses lay out that if they do not listen to you, you should appeal to others for help (in our case, our parents). But before we go to our parents, we should do everything we can. Unfortunately, I have at times fallen into the snare of saying “please do such-and-such” and if they don’t do it, to go straight to my parent with the complaint. My wise parents have been quick to point out that I need to work at trying to “win my brother”. They have helped me to learn how to help my sibling to see the bigger picture, and how to motivate that sibling to want to obey. Saying things like “Daddy will be home in ten minutes. Let’s make the house all cheerful for him!” or “Let’s set a timer and race to see who can get their job done first!” helps our siblings to want to do the right thing. When I’m having a hard time thinking about how to motivate my sibling I try to think of how I would want to be treated if I were in their shoes, or how I would seek to motivate a friend. We can be persuasive when we want to!
How can our words of love, encouragement, and consideration impact our family and even change the whole atmosphere of the home? Can you give some practical examples of how words have either blessed or changed your life in the past, and some things/ideas that girls could say to encourage their siblings?
As young ladies, we have a powerful opportunity to shine with Christ’s joyfulness and to witness of him by our words, attitudes, and actions. Encouragement is a sweet way to add to a joyful atmosphere in our home. We should be quick to notice when our siblings do something hard, when they go above and beyond, or when they are simply faithful in their duties. Often a simple “wow, thank you for doing (insert chore)” or “that was so kind of you to say/do that” is really encouraging. One of my resolutions for 2015 is to say at least three encouraging things to my siblings every day. Some siblings think that their siblings don’t do good things very often, but you can notice good qualities in anyone, and that is great practice for being a wife and mother.
If there has been a time when you feel you have not had the "law of kindness" on your tongue, what is your course of action? (Repentance, depending on the Lord for strength to guard our mouth, etc.) How can this show our family/siblings/others our need for the Gospel/Christ?
Definitely. I still have a lot to learn in applying this magnificent example! I fail in this often, and have to repent before the Lord and those I sinned against. Being humble and transparent before our siblings about our struggles allows them to learn from our example. My mother has always been an amazing example of godly transparency. Through her example, I saw how to gain victory over sin in my own life, and I was always eager to forgive her because she was humble and repentant. Our family members can learn from us if we are humble and willing to share, so that even our sin can be a channel that God uses!
The law of kindness should permeate more than our words. Our lives should be adorned with good works that bless others. What are some examples of this?
The Proverbs 31 woman is a great example of this as well. She was ruled by the law of God that was in her mind (she “feared God”, verse 30), on her tongue (verse 26), and that went joyfully to her hands in all the other verses. She was marked by hard work, wise home management, and helping the poor, just to name a few! In all these things, she was blessed (v. 28-31) because she walked in the ways of God, just as Psalm 119:1 says; “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!”
Do you have any other closing thoughts, exhortations, or lessons you would like to share?
I was so excited when Sarah asked me to write on this particular verse because it has become very dear to me in the last few years, and has been a powerful motivator to me. One of the ways that I need to emulate the Proverbs 31 woman is to have the law of kindness on my tongue, but that doesn’t come naturally, it takes deliberate work. Seeing this has motivated me tremendously in studying the Word of God.
There are two main applications I have taken from this verse. First, I need to be soaking in the Word of God myself, and second, I need to study God’s Word so that I am prepared to apply His word to whatever situation face. There are some great books out there, especially ones on the topic of biblical counseling that teach you how to apply Scripture to everyday life.
The amazing thing is that this is the very work that Christ left us here on earth to do! When we speak the law of kindness, we are doing something that has eternal value. The great commission is to disciple all the nations “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:20). When we, in the spheres that God has given to us, teach others to observe all that God has commanded, we are taking part in the furthering of Christ’s work. What a privilege! We are Christ’s ambassadors. The only question is whether we are good servants or wicked ones. Are we burying what God has given us to share, or are we investing His truth in the lives of those He has given us to influence (Matt 25:18)? May we be good ambassadors of Christ and someday hear those precious words, “well done, thou good and faithful servant” from the lips of our Savior.
Want to learn how to apply Scripture to everyday life? Here's a great place to start. Even though it is written to parents, the same verses and principles apply to us as siblings.