Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary)
As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12, ESV)
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” (Proverbs 10:11, ESV)
“The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath.” (Proverbs 11:23, ESV)
“By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10, ESV)
“A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” (Proverbs 14:17, ESV)
“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” (Proverbs 14:29, ESV)
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV)
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” (Proverbs 15:18, ESV)
“A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.” (Proverbs 16:29, ESV)
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32, ESV)
“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1, ESV)
“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14, ESV)
“Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction.” (Proverbs 17:19, ESV)
“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:27, ESV)
“A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19, ESV)
“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” (Proverbs 19:1, ESV)
“A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.” (Proverbs 19:19, ESV)
“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” (Proverbs 20:3, ESV)
“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” (Proverbs 22:24-25, ESV)
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28, ESV)
“Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” (Proverbs 26:17, ESV)
“As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.” (Proverbs 26:21, ESV)
“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4, ESV)
“Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.” (Proverbs 29:8, ESV)
“A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.” (Proverbs 29:22, ESV)
“If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth. For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.” (Proverbs 30:32-33, ESV)
And here was the bit of wisdom that started me pulling that thread this morning:
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Proverbs 29:11, ESV)
That’s part of the trouble with anger and rage, isn’t it? It makes us give “full vent.” Today we call it “flying off the handle,” or losing self-control, which almost always means losing control of your mouth. And as we have read elsewhere in the Scriptures, the tongue is a weapon that can cause great harm, setting the world aflame, inflicting deep wounds, and even bringing death.
We live in an age where people act like the evil of flying off the handle is a good thing. Talk shows and news programs are filled with men and women seated around tables, bringing up a topic of concern, and then entering into a yelling match, giving full vent to their spirits, thinking this makes them look and be strong. We who look on are not much better. We allow ourselves to be drawn in, filling with rage, and then yelling at the screen or speaker right along with them. Or worse, repeating the scene when we enter into conversation with those around us.
At times it feels we are a nation of fools.
When what we need are more wise men and women. People able to quietly hold it back. Who softly ask our Father to set a door over their mouths, and keep watch over their lips (Psalm 141:3). We need to be the kind of people who turn to the wise who have come before us, whom I like to call Old Dead Guys (and Gals), who speak with a different perspective than the present age. Meditating on their meditation of the Scripture will very often prove fruitful.
One such man is Matthew Henry (1662-1714). Here is what he had to say about Proverbs 29:11, just two short paragraphs that are worth multiple readings and prayerful reflection:
Note, 1. It is a piece of weakness to be very open: He is a fool who utters all his mind,—who tells every thing he knows, and has in his mouth instantly whatever he has in his thoughts, and can keep no counsel,—who, whatever is started in discourse, quickly shoots his bolt,—who, when he is provoked, will say any thing that comes uppermost, whoever is reflected upon by it,—who, when he is to speak of any business, will say all he thinks, and yet never thinks he says enough, whether choice or refuse, corn or chaff, pertinent or impertinent, you shall have it all.
2. It is a piece of wisdom to be upon the reserve: A wise man will not utter all his mind at once, but will take time for a second thought, or reserve the present thought for a fitter time, when it will be more pertinent and likely to answer his intention; he will not deliver himself in a continued speech, or starched discourse, but with pauses, that he may hear what is to be objected and answer it. Non minus interdum oratorium est tacere quam dicere—True oratory requires an occasional pause. Plin. Ep. 7.6.
I am shaken by these texts from Solomon and Matthew Henry this morning. I am guilty. How many times have I lost control of my mouth? How many times have I given full vent to my spirit? Beyond number. Forgive me Father, I have been a fool. Please, by your Spirit inside me, set a door on my mouth and a guard on my lips. Help me to quietly hold back my words, wether good or evil, and cause me to take time for a second thought, a prayerful pause, and see I may not need to speak at all. O how I want to be a wise man! May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be always and ever pleasing to you, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.
Pursuing the wise and good life with you,
Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day
Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day
Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day
Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day
Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day
Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31
Day Twenty-Six: A Morning Conversation With King Solomon
A conversation that happened this morning as I came upon a visitor in our fireplace room….
Day Nineteen: God Chose Her, Not You
The doctrine of God’s rule and reign in and over all things comes crashing into the human conception of the self-made man. We are tempted to think we have so much to do with our happinesses. But the wisdom found from James speaks a wakefulness into the pondering of our circumstances—the good gifts we have come not from our own hands, but by the grace and providence of our heavenly Father. And the wisdom of Solomon makes clear—one of man’s greatest gifts is something only God can give, an understanding wife.
Day Seventeen: The Great Gain Of Godly Contentment
We live in a world where the temptation is constant to believe the amount of our wealth and possessions directly translates to our joy and happiness. The Bible, once again, confronts our culture and holds out another possibility. Namely, “better” does not imply “more,” “bigger,” or “expensive.” It suggests that the reason you still haven’t found what you are looking for is because you’ve been searching in all the wrong places. Wisdom opens our eyes and hearts to deeper wells of contentment.
Day Fifteen: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me
I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy. Woh, I always feel like somebody's watching me. Tell me is it just a dream? So sang Rockwell in the dawning of my high school years back in 1984. All the cool kids were singing it at the time, and its the tune that sprang to mind when I read this similar sentiment this morning: Yahweh is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3, New Living Translation)
Day Fourteen: Death By Living
For those of us desirous to live a good life, we’ve known since the very beginning of this book that it begins with a healthy awe, reverence, and trembling before the God of the universe whose name is Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7). And here we are again reminded that this humble posture before the Holy One is a fountain overflowing with life.
Day Thirteen: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
One of the key assumptions we’ve been working with as we make our way through the wisdom literature is that God has hardwired wisdom into the way creation (and the creatures within it…us) operates. It was there at the beginning. It’s the inner logic of everything, and the secret code for how it works. (see Proverbs 8:22-31)
Day Eleven: A Pig Is Still A Pig
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. (Proverbs 11:22, English Standard Version) “Well…I never!” she replied to the King. Reading this proverb, it seems highly probable to me, given the stories of King Solomon and all the women in his life (1 Kings 11:3), that this was probably a proverb born from experience. He comes along a beautiful woman, of high social standing, of influence and power; but in his interactions with her, he begins to see her true self shining through all her external adornments. She has no discretion—she is a woman of loose and dissolute conversation, her mind and conscience are defiled. There’s a beauty for the eye, but the corruption of her character slowly transforms how Solomon sees her, and no amount of jewelry will cover that up.