Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and he who wins souls is wise.
I’ve seen this verse quoted many times in relation to personal evangelism, quite memorably in an evangelism class in seminary. However, I think that takes the words out of the social and theological context of the time. I can’t recall any other even vague references to “soul winning” in the Old Testament. The Japanese expresses it as, “A wise person captures the hearts of people.” The general thrust of the verse is that being and doing the right thing has benefits, which is in line with the majority of the whole book of Proverbs. The thing is, we don’t “win souls,” we inform people about and introduce them to the Savior, Jesus Christ who loved them enough to die for them, and the Holy Spirit takes it from there. We are important in the process, certainly, but it is a privilege to be involved, rather than a burden because it “all depends on us.” Thinking you are anything more than a tool for God to use leads either to pride or to condemnation, depending on the results of your efforts. It is a joy indeed to be used by God to lead someone to repentance and faith, but we should never be seduced by personal pride in our “tally.”
This is personal for me, because as I’ve written numbers of times before, the “rate of return” on investment of time and effort in Japan is extremely low, leading to Japan being called, not unreasonably, “the graveyard of missionaries.” Japanese have such a strong sense of racial identity that they see foreigners as so “other” that they have trouble accepting that the truth the foreigner speaks applies to them. Japanese evangelists are more effective, but Christianity is still labeled “a foreign religion,” and conversion to it is seen as being “disloyal to your ancestors.” I’m not to take any of that as an excuse to give up, but I am also not to take it personally when I don’t gain great numbers of converts. After all, I wasn’t commissioned to make converts, but to make disciples! (Matthew 28:18-20) I am grateful that several people under my ministry have chosen to go into fulltime ministry themselves. I’ve always said that at least part of their motivation was probably, “I’m sure I could do better than Jack!” I am to seek to operate in God’s wisdom and not my own, so that people’s hearts may be captured, not by me but by the Lord I serve, for their eternal blessing and God’s glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You that my classes for the new school term start today. The classes starting this week are all 2nd year students, so they’ve had me before. I pray that the impression they have had of Christ in me may be strengthened, drawing them to hunger for Christ themselves, to the point of repenting of their unbelief and committing to full discipleship, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!