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Lincoln’s Pockets

Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. Romans 15:2

The night US president Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater in 1865, his pockets contained the following: two spectacles, a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a handkerchief, a leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate bill, and eight newspaper clippings, including several that praised him and his policies.

I wonder what the Confederate money was doing in the president’s pocket, but I have little doubt about the glowing news stories. Everyone needs encouragement, even a great leader like Lincoln! Can you see him, in the moments before the fateful play, perhaps reading them to his wife?

Who do you know who needs encouragement? Everyone! Look around you. There isn’t one person in your line of vision who is as confident as they seem. We’re all one failure, snide comment, or bad hair day away from self-doubt.

What if we all obeyed God’s command to “please our neighbors for their good, to build them up”? (Romans 15:2). What if we determined only to speak “gracious words” that are “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”? (Proverbs 16:24). What if we wrote these words down, so friends could reread and savor them? Then we’d all have notes in our pockets (or on our phones!). And we’d be more like Jesus, who “did not please himself” but lived for others (Romans 15:3).

Whose words have most encouraged you? Who might need encouragement that you’ve been overlooking?

Loving God, help me to encourage others with my words, actions, and presence.


In his writing to first-century believers, Paul referred to Jesus as the prime example of the kind of selfless conduct that believers in Christ should model in their relationships with each other. Twice in Romans 15:1–6, Paul directs our attention to Jesus as a pattern for our conduct (vv. 3, 5). Just as Jesus didn’t please Himself, so believers shouldn’t be only concerned with themselves but with pleasing their neighbors to build them up (vv. 1–3). Then in verse 5 Paul prays, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” We see this same theme in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where he points to Jesus as the primary example of self-sacrificial humility (2:1–11). When Christ is the model for our attitudes and actions, others can feel safe around us because we’re His agents of encouragement.

Arthur Jackson

By |2019-08-12T17:12:31-04:00August 15th, 2019|
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