"David, out in the backcountry, heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep and sent ten of his young men off with these instructions, ‘Go to Carmel and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name. Peace! Life and peace to you. Peace to your household, peace to everyone here! I heard that it's sheep-shearing time. Here's the point: when your shepherds were camped near us, we didn't take advantage of them. They didn't lose a thing all the time they were with us in Carmel. Ask your young men - they'll tell you. What I'm asking is that you be generous with my men - share the feast! Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to me, David your son.'"
I Samuel 25; 4-8, The Message
"Don't Expect Gratitude From a Grump"
"It is well to remember that the entire universe is composed of others."
How do I treat others with whom I have dealings?
Do I reward kindness with grumpiness?
Am I willing to share with those who have shown me kindness?
"Selfishness is a very little world inhabited by one person."
"Living in our selfishness means stopping at human limits and preventing our transformation in Divine Love."
The Bible makes a simple statement but one that tells us a lot. "It was shearing time in Carmel." Gone were the long days and sleep-deprived nights herding flocks around the desert in search of food.
Now it was time for the reward. The sheep were sheared and the wool was sold. Even today shearing time has a great deal of celebratory joy associated with it.
With their livestock in one place together, the owners and their workers found common ground enjoying a break before a new season arrived.
As noted in our text for today, it was very normal for a feast to be held at shearing time - and this custom was shown to be part of the activities at Nabal's sheep-shearing.
However, the feast wasn't just a time to rejoice. The Israelites were a people who had been instructed by their heavenly Father to show kindness to others. And so, it would not have been out-of-character for a person like David, a wanderer, who had been protecting Nabal's flocks from thieves, to be treated with great kindness and generosity and invited to join the festivities. Rather than David's request for food being seen as a way for someone to try and get something for nothing, giving David and his men food would be an act of unselfish generosity - even gratitude for the care David had extended to Nabal in honestly protecting his flock.
However, Nabal didn't view David's humble request in a good light. I think it is critical to note that David came to Nabal, first with a message of blessing and peace on his household. "Peace! Life and peace to you," was the way David's men greeted Nabal. Second, David didn't demand a certain amount of food. Instead, he asked if Nabal would give from his heart. This wasn't David insisting that Nabal give or else. And finally, David came to Nabal in a stance of humility. He told Nabal the request was from, "Your son David." David legitimately could have said, "This is David who has protected you with no cost associated." But he didn't act like a big-shot. He sent his men to Nabal in a spirit of unselfishness, as one would think Nabal would do. There wasn't any gratitude whatsoever from Nabal, however.
And here's where we, like David, sometimes become completely discouraged by the response we get from people when our kindness is returned with selfishness. I call it the disappointment of unmet expectations.
Often when we give of our time and take care of situations as best we can and believe we should, we somehow think those we are caring for will not only recognize our attempts to be kind but will be grateful for it. When our generosity is returned with a "curlish" retort like Nabal, we act surprised, when in fact, the Bible makes it clear, long before we are told about Nabal's nasty retort to David, he was a man who was "surly and mean in his dealings."
What this story reminds me of in my own life is that expecting gratitude from a grump can be the basis for unmet expectations. And this can result in my own disappointment, which may lead to anger.
Many years ago, Jim and I had a very toxic family issue. Just like many of you, things don't always run smoothly within the circle of our extended families. In this particular case, my husband, Jim, a very generous-hearted person, extended a great deal of kindness to another family member who in turn returned Jim's unselfishness with downright meanness. My dear Jim was not only hurt, he was frustrated. He couldn't understand this behavior because it was not the way he would act. One day as we discussed the situation, we came to the conclusion that in life, it is best not to expect from others that which they are incapable of giving. Don't get me wrong, Jim and I aren't two cynics who expect the worst. But sometimes, all of us allow ourselves to be deeply disappointed by the Nabals whom we know are surly, grumpy and evil. This is how the Bible describes Nabal. And yet, David somehow expected a pat on the back for all he had done. Maybe, just maybe, if David had thought about who he was dealing with, his own level of disappointment wouldn't have been so great and he wouldn't have turned around and responded the way he did to Nabal's words.
Stay tuned! For tomorrow we'll take a closer look at what happened when Nabal's grumpiness ran headlong into David's desire for gratitude for a job well done. Let me just say, it isn't pretty! And what's more, there's a great lesson in this encounter for you and me, too. For in our lives, at one time or another we'll all meet a Nabal whose self-centeredness in response to our kindness disappoints us.
"O Saviour, pour upon me
Thy spirit of meekness and love,
annihilate the selfhood in me,
be Thou all my life.
Guide Thou my hand."
"O Lord, give us more charity, more self-denial, more likeness to Thee. Teach us to sacrifice our comforts to others, and our likings for the sake of doing good. Make us kindly in thought, gentle in word, generous in deed. Teach us that it is better to give than to receive; better to forget ourselves than to put ourselves forward; better to minister than to be ministered unto. And unto Thee, the God of love, be glory and praise for ever."
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $8.00. Or by calling Transformation Garden at 1-888-397-4348.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.