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January 24, 2005

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Kinsman Redeemer

READER QUESTION:
Please could you explain to me, what is a 'kinsman redeemer.' (Rth 2:20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, Blessed is he of Jehovah, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead! And Naomi said to her, This man is next of kin to us, a kinsman redeemer.)

VW ANSWER:
This was a method by which Israel 1) sustained the family tree, and 2) dealt with certain poverty and family property inheritance issues.

When somebody came onto hard times, going into debt, losing their property, etc., a relative could come along and "redeem" the property, buying it back from the creditor, to preserve the family heritage. (Lev25:25) And if you keep reading in that passage you will see the matters of the "jubilee" year where, even if it hadn't been redeemed, in the jubilee year debts were forgiven and rural properties reverted back to their original owners. This was not the case for city property after a year had elapsed. (vs30) The law was very particular about property rights, and also about -not- moving a neighbor's "landmark" based on the inheritance as the land was distributed to the 12 tribes after Joshua's conquests. (De19:14, 27:17, Pr22:28)

In the case of the family name, if a husband died, leaving a widow with no heir, it was Israeli law for the widow's brother-in-law to take her as wife, to raise up offspring in the name of the dead husband. The first-born of that relationship was called after the name of the dead husband. (Lev25:5-7)

Thus, in Naomi and Ruth's case, when Boaz fulfilled the duty of kinsman redeemer, he fulfilled -both- of these matters: he purchased the land Elimelech and Naomi abandoned due to the famine, to restore the property to the family; and married Ruth to raise up offspring.

Kinsman: a type of Christ?

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Humor & Teasing?

READER QUESTION:
Some of my friends (some of them I am pretty sure are unsaved, some of them I think may be) and I tend to tease each other a bit. This teasing can get pretty brutal, by outward appearances. By brutal I mean, making fun of each other's weight, or in my case, hair loss (I say as I cry into my hands, LOL). We also will do mock bragging, of the "I could beat you in my sleep" variety. The people with whom I participate in this are all fully aware that it is all light hearted and farcical. However, we are saying mean things and saying things that, I don't know how to say it, "puff ourselves up"? (does that make sense?)

I don't really think I am doing anything wrong, I mean it is the content of the heart that matters correct? Besides it is not the words them selves that are important, but the meaning they convey, correct? I do feel compelled to ask, though .

VW ANSWER:
Well, I've always heard from a very reliable (?) source, and it's a well-known 'fact' that, when God created man, He created a few 'perfect' heads, and the rest He covered with hair. -smile-

This late-uncle of mine also used to talk about the -book- he had written, "Humility, and How I Obtained It". Like the old Kellogg's Tony-the-tiger cartoon commercials, when asked about his 'greatness', Tony expressing how important it had been to be (ahem!) "humble".

But seriously...

There are two Scriptural concepts about levity. On one hand: "A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones." (Pr17:22) If a person does a search of the word "laughter", it is often connected to the merry heart. But on the other hand: "For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool; this also is vanity." (Ec7:6) as Paul exhorts about the things that should 'not be named', among them, "coarse jesting, which are not fitting". (Eph5:4)

Where is that 'line' between simple levity and where one crosses the line to being offensive? I struggle with this myself, because I typically see a lot of 'funny' things in life, and often verbalize them, when others sometimes don't see it the same way I do. I suspect it depends on the people involved. Some obese people will 'laugh' about their weight, but over the years they've developed that as an emotional 'defense' mechanism against the playground taunts they received as little children, of the "fatty fatty two-by-four...." jokes.

If one reads of David and others in O.T. warfare, is there not built into the male a certain self-confidence, without which, an army might not be successful in battle, and such things that have become necessary due to the human condition in sin; as is prophesied for that final battle as the armies are emotionally pumping themselves up, "Let the weak say, I am strong". (Joel3:10) But on the other hand, we are exhorted to "..let each esteem others as surpassing himself" (Php2:3)

Thus, it might be OK to joke, "I could beat you (e.g. at basketball) with one pinky, and the other hand tied behind my back" (where nobody is getting hurt); but to suggest, "He's so fat that when he......" probably wouldn't be OK, because it can hurt the person.

This is one of the problems I have with a lot of the comedians. Clean humor I enjoy. But some get going on the various sexual themes. And others, like Don Rickles, or that other one, what's his name? (the "I don't get no respect" guy... Rodney Dangerfield) I typically have not appreciated, because so much of their humor is based on tearing people down. One reason that "roasts" are not really that wonderful; because their primary purpose is to "tear down" the individual receiving the -honors-..."all in good fun", of course.

As Christians we are not to tear down, but to "build up one another" (Rom14:19, 1Th5:11) When the people know each other, the fact that it is 'humor' and everybody is -genuinely- 'laughing' and seeing it as being 'funny', can be a good 'build-up'. The (apparent) put-down is actually a build-up, due to everybody knowing it to be humor. When the people know each other, indeed, they know each others' hearts...thus, the intent is the thing, not necessarily (as you say) the "words themselves".

But Christians need to be careful when it starts approaching that 'line'.

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