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Old Rotten Rags

Another school year is al-most over again. Some of you have just graduated from school. All of you by now should have cleaned out your desk for the summer and taken home the left over, stubby pencils, half-used erasers and tattered notebooks. I wonder if any of you had any left over “...old cast clouts and rotten rags” (Jer. 38:12) in your desk? You’re probably wondering what I can possibly be talking about but there is a wonderful reason when you know the story about them. There was a prophet named Jeremiah in the Bible who had been cast into prison because he preached to the people what God told him to preach rather than what the people wanted to hear. His prison was a dungeon cut into rock. There was no door and no light, and he had to be let down into it with ropes. The bottom was slimy and filled with mud, which closed about Jeremiah’s body as he sank down into the cold mire. The Bible tells us that there was one man who felt sorry for Jeremiah, Ebedmelech, a black man. He went to the king and got permission to take the old prophet out. The question was, how? Jeremiah was old and frail, and to pull him out with a rope around him would cause him great pain. So Ebedmelech thought for a bit and then brought a pile of “old cast clouts (worn out clothing) and rotten rags,” and tossed them down to Jeremiah in the pit. He told the prophet to put them under his armpits to act as a cushion, so the ropes would not hurt when he was pulled up. Even old rags are precious in the sight of God when they are used to do a kindness. Ebedmelech not only did a kind thing, he did it kindly, and he thought hard to do it in the kindest possible way. Even today, you really don’t have to look too hard to find times or ways to show kindness. That’s why I asked you about “old rags” in your desk. Have you tried to show a kindness to others this year like Ebedmelech? And did you use something like “old cast clouts” to make sure your kindness didn’t cause any pain? Sometimes, you know, you can intend to be kind, and yet cause hurt feelings, because you do not think about the best way to do it. It isn’t a case of “Oh, anything will do!” You must do it the best way, the kindest way. And it’s the little things that count, the smile, the gentle helping hand, even the way the gift is given. It’s something that each of us can do— even with “old rags.” That is why they are mentioned in the Bible, to show us that nothing is too common or ordinary or too little for God to notice, when it is given or used to show kindness and love. I hope that each of you will have a safe and pleasant summer vacation. Try to make it even more pleasant for yourself and others by taking advantage of every opportu-nity to show kindness to others. Adapted by David Engelsma, administrator of Plymouth Christian Elementary School, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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