The Proverbs have pointed us towards loving others. Whether we are acting out of kindness or justice, we should do so promptly. Delay for the sake of itself has no purpose. It is simply foolishness. Take action when you can, do not put off what you can do today.
Proverbs 3:27-28: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you” when you already have it with you.”
Windows of Opportunity
I think this Proverb points to how life has windows of time where actions can be taken. There are times that waiting can make an action impossible. Thus, we should move to act when we can do good. If we wait, the opportunity may disappear. This loss can lead to a life of regret or even change our course completely.
What sort of impact comes from waiting to say a kind word until someone has left our life? Can you think of times where delaying an action turned someone against you? For example, what happens when we warn someone about an action, but do so after they have suffered from that action? This line of thinking all flows from treating others as we want to be. If we can have something good happen today or put it off until tomorrow, why would we ever want to put it off?
Inaction is Action
You can read between the lines in this bit of wisdom. Although it is unsaid, inaction is a form of action. We are asked to avoid delay in doing good. Thus, we should also consider the impact of that delay. Wisdom does not allow us to stay aloof and outside of the events of the world. We are still called to action when we can do good.
Life is brief and time is fluid. Thus, we must stay alert for opportunities. When we see a path, we should act and not waste time analyzing it until the moment has passed. When opportunity knocks, the wise will open the door, not wait for another knock.
Teaching Children this Wisdom
This piece of wisdom is easy to teach children. Their natural impatience can make short delays pure torture for them. However, a delay in good does not by itself show the ephemeral nature of everything in our world. For this example, use something that is good, but has a limited life. A bowl of ice cream is a perfect model.
Create a bowl of ice cream for your child and then set it out, but do not let the child start eating. The ice cream will melt, of course, and become less of a treat. You do not have to wait long before the ice cream is visibly melting. Therefore, a short delay can open up discussion for why acts with positive impact should be taken immediately. Hot meals turn cold, fresh food can spoil, and good delayed can lose its luster.