When Kindness Backfires

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), April 25

imagesSometimes kindness backfires. It has nothing to do with the one expressing the kindness, but with the one receiving the kindness. This person may have a kindness-receptor flawed by suspicion—ascribing ulterior motives to the benefactor.

That’s exactly what happened with King David and Hanun, “It happened after this that the king of the people of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. Then David said, ‘I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me’” (2 Sam. 10:1-2). David sends a delegation to express condolences to Hanun. Instead of receiving David’s delegation for what it is, a welcoming committee meets them, half-shaves their beards, cuts their clothing off at the hips, and sends them back to David in humiliation.

David and Nahash have had a history together. Though the Bible is silent regarding the terms of their friendship, David has been a recipient of Nahash’s kindness and only wishes to express his gratitude toward Nahash’s son. Instead of a kiss on the cheek, he receives a slap in the face.

This story reveals several truths about suspicion:

  • Suspicion robs one from receiving an intended good. Bacause Hanun listens to the suspicions of his advisors, “Has David not rather sent his servants to you to search the city, to spy it out, and to overthrow it?” (10:3), he does not receive condolence over the death of his father.
  • Suspicion humiliates others for the good that they seek to do. Instead of receiving David’s condolence at face value, the Ammonites humiliate David’s delegation. Suspicious people are small-minded people. They misuse their power and authority over others to humiliate them.
  • Suspicion reveals a heart of duplicity. Hanun’s advisors ascribe to David their own evil motives. That’s exactly what they would have done, had David’s father died.
  • Suspicion creates conflict between friends. David has no fight with Nahash or his son Hanun. A battle ensues where there had been no previous conflict. David sends Joab to attack the Ammonites. Humiliated, the Ammonite army flees from the battlefield (10:7-14).
  • Suspicion brings innocent bystanders into the conflict—Hanun invites the Arameans into a conflict that isn’t theirs. This alliance is costly!

Beware of entertaining suspicions about the motives of others. Acts of kindness are often just that—acts of kindness.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (2 Samuel 8:15-10:19;1 Chronicles 6:16-48; 18:14-17; 19:1-19):

David’s confidence in the LORD’s anointing him as Israel’s king overflows in his interaction with Saul’s heirs. What does his treatment of Mephibosheth teach Israel about grace?