Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Texts: Jonah 3:4-4:6; Luke 19:38-42; Matthew 5:43-47; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Mark 8:22-25; Philippians 2:3-5; James 2:14-17,35
A Chinese girl named Li-li got married and lived with her obnoxious mother-in-law. Days and weeks passed, and Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. All the anger and unhappiness in the house caused Li-Li's poor husband great distress because he loved both his wife and his mother. Since the mother-in-law was so insufferable, Li-li decided to kill her.
Li-li went to her father’s good friend Mr. Huang, who sold herbs, to get a slow-acting poison. Mr. Huang said, “Just so that people don’t suspect you, treat your mother-in-law very nicely, as you’d like to be treated.” So Li-li was kind to her mother-in-law as she slipped a little poison into her food each day. For months she fed the concoction to her mother-in-law, all the while being careful to hold her temper and treat the woman kindly. Now a funny thing happened: the two started getting along much better and became best friends. The mother-in-law began to consider Li-li as close as her own natural daughter. So Li-li went back to Mr. Huang and said, “I now love my mother-in-law and don’t want to kill her; please give me something to counteract the poison.” Mr. Huang replied, “I never gave you any poison. I only gave you ordinary vitamins that would improve the woman’s health; the only poison was in your own attitude toward your mother-in-law.” 1
The “Li-Li and her mother-in-law” story appears in various forms. Sometimes the names and circumstances are changed. Sometimes the story emphasizes the notion that the simple act of being kind to her mother-in-law changes Li-li’s heart. Sometimes it’s Li-li’s acts of kindness that change her mother-in-law’s heart so it’s easier for Li-li to love her. No matter the emphasis, the lesson is always the same: kindness is it’s own reward. It’s good to be kind simply for the sake of being kind. Any practical results are simply an added benefit for behaving in a Christ-like manner.
Disinterested benevolence doesn’t always come naturally to us. Just as Li-li originally had ulterior motives for her kindly attitude, we are often kind because we expect something in return. It’s easy to consider disinterested benevolence as a waste of time, since we can’t always see results such as changed hearts or baptisms in response to our efforts. In our lesson this week we see that Jesus desired the good of others simply because he wanted to bless them, whether they ever responded to Him or not.
This week’s lesson discusses the “anyway” principal. Jesus ministers to people anyway, in spite of the way they treat Him. Peter denied Christ three times, despite having sworn his allegiance to Jesus—even to death. Jesus could have responded likewise, leaving Peter to suffer the consequences of his betrayal. Yet, with no assurance of Peter’s response, Jesus forgave and blessed Peter anyway—in spite of Peter’s duplicity.
Since we naturally look for benefits in response to our good deeds, Jesus reminds us that, if we don’t receive a reward here in this life, we can rely on an eternal reward in His kingdom.
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