Tag Archives: proverbs

Fire Words

Proverbs 15:1

“A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (KJV).
“A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire” (The Message).

Have you ever thought about how powerful your words are? Solomon tells us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21). Think about that for a minute. Every word you speak to someone can bring life or death to them. In the above passage of Scripture, we learn that our words can diffuse the most difficult fights or arguments. If we speak gentle words, we can turn away wrath. But if we respond with harsh words, we will only stir up that other person’s anger. We also learn here that gentle words can bring life and health to someone, and negative words can crush someone’s spirit.

James gives us a great word picture to help us see the power in our words when he writes: “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” (James 3:5-6).

I think it’s interesting that James uses fire to represent the power of the tongue. Fire is a tool, and it can be used for either good or evil purposes. The same fire that can be used to cook your food or warm your house can also be used to burn down a building. Likewise, our words can be used to bring encouragement or comfort, or to bring death and destruction.

In his book, The Power of Your Words, Robert Morris gives three suggestions for how we can begin the process of taming our tongue.

  • Pause: Hold on there just a minute. Before you open your mouth, pause for a minute. James exhorts us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19). God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk!
  • Ponder: Let’s give that some thought. The Bible says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Eph. 4:29). If your words don’t fit into that category, then don’t say them!
  • Pray: Appeal to a higher power. If words are so powerful, then we should pray that God would give us the ability to tame our tongues. Let’s pray that God would set a guard over our mouths.
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Control Your Anger

Proverbs 14:29

“He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” (KJV).
“Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes.” (NLT).

The Emotion of Anger

The Book of Proverbs gives us a smorgasbord of wisdom that applies to every area of our life: It gives us wisdom in our relationships, family life, dealing with finances and walking in righteousness. But it also gives us a window into our heart, and helps us to consider our emotions as well. In the above Proverb, Solomon addresses the emotion of anger.

Anger is not necessarily a bad thing. It is an emotion, and when we are treated unfairly, we are going to get angry. However, what we do with that emotion is what makes it good or evil. If we can control our anger, it proves that we have great understanding. But those with a hasty temper will make mistakes. I’ve seen people get angry and then do things that they later regretted, impulsive and often embarrassing mistakes. When we control our anger, we can avoid some of those blunders.

How do we control our anger?

So what is the antidote to a person who struggles with anger? It’s easy to say, “Stop being so angry!” But it’s another thing entirely to try to control those emotions in your own life. What is the answer then? I believe it’s found in a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a church in Galatia. He starts out by identifying the problem: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21). He then gives the solution: “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22-23).

How do we get more of this fruit of the Spirit in our lives? Spend time with Jesus in prayer! Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

Lord, help us to abide in the secret place of prayer, abiding in Jesus the Vine, so we can bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Amen!


I Know Who to Trust

Proverbs 14:26

In the fear of the LORD [is] strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

My Refuge

As a child I knew where to run and hide when the sound of thunder came. Actually, to be honest, thunder never really bothered me that much, because I had an early belief that if it was God’s will for me to be hurt in the storm, it would happen. Otherwise, regardless of the booming in the sky, I was going to be OK.

I trusted in God even in my youth, much like David…

For thou [art] my hope, O Lord GOD: [thou art] my trust from my youth. – Psalm 71:5

But when there was the perception of a monster outside, or under my bed, or threatening to harm me after going out with his girlfriend, my “confidence” was in my father, my dad, who wasn’t afraid of anybody.

In all honesty, my “place of refuge” was more often my earthly father, not my heavenly One.

Refuge Shattered

But then, on the 11th of June, 1991, my “place of refuge” from the bad guys, monsters, heartaches, disappointments, etc., came tumbling down. My dad died.

It never crossed my mind…I’m only thinking about it right now as I write this post…but I should have known my dad’s strength was much more limited than I gave it credit.

Job spoke of people who’s confidence, whose hope, would wind up as worthless as those who fell into a spider’s web, hoping its strength would keep them from falling.

Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust [the same word translated as confidence in Prov. 14:26] shall be a spider’s web. – Job 8:14

Too often, and it’s this way with most everyone, we put our confidence in things that will never be able to catch us when we fall, support us when we doubt, or protect us when we hide. But…

Blessed [is] the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. – Jeremiah 17:7

Our Strong Confidence

So, what can we count on? Where do we go when we don’t have the answers? Where do we run to hide when thunderous doubt rumbles the foundations of our soul?

The fear of the LORD is our STRONG CONFIDENCE!

Just today I was reading from Proverbs 30. There, in the first few verses, Agur, in a self-deprecating fashion, proclaims that he is not wise, nor does he claim to have any special understanding of the ways of God. However

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. – Proverbs 30:5

I fear God. Meaning, I know better than to question His wisdom and power and might! He never lies, His promises are sure, and HE will never leave me nor forsake me! My “strong confidence” is in the same hand that can crush nations and fling stars – I fear Him!

But I also trust Him.

Because He said he loves me.

And I believe Him.


The Evil Dead

Proverbs 14:19

‘Evil men will bow down in the presence of the good,
    and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.’

Slim Consolation

The Bible is full of good honest people asking the question, “Why do bad people prosper, and good people suffer?” This is a question that still haunts us now. The song writer Josh Garrels quips in his song ‘Farther Along’ – ‘Tempted and tried, I wonder why the good man dies, bad man thrives and Jesus cries cus He loves them both.’ The Bible also tells us that the bad, or evil will get their comeuppance. But when we are seeing the evil thrive very close to home while we also struggle to live the way we’d like, not to mention all our brothers and sisters all over the world facing persecution for Christ, this can be hard to swallow. This verse may provide some comfort in the thought that one day things will be made right, but what about now?

The Inconvenient Truth

Romans 11 verse 14 tells us that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, whether they want to or not! One day you may be falling to your knees in worship while the person next to you is having an uncomfortable moment of realisation and regret. What will you think in that moment? Will you be glad that the evil are finally about to get their just desserts? Or will you be wishing you had done more to help people see Jesus in this life so they are not surprised in the next?


Just Reward

Proverbs 14:14.

“The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.”

Christian Karma?

There are many religions in the world who believe in karma. Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs for example all believe in the concept of “action” or “deed”, that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect. In other words, if you are a good person, good things will happen to you, and if you are a bad person, bad things will happen to you. You might be surprised to learn that this idea actually has its origins in the Bible. King Solomon wrote: “Backsliders get what they deserve; good people receive their reward.” (Prov. 14:14, NLT).

Now lest some of you begin calling me a heretic for suggesting that karma is a Christian concept, let me clarify. Karma is a twisted and imperfect understanding of the Scriptural principle of reaping and sowing which the Apostle Paul describes here: “Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:7-8, NLT).

Consequences for our Actions:

Today’s Proverb teaches us that there are consequences for our actions. If you are a backslider, you will get what you deserve. If you live a life of sin and rebellion against God and His Word, don’t be surprised when life doesn’t work for you! But if you are a good person, and live to please the Spirit, you will receive a blessing from the Lord.

Let me illustrate. My dad was an alcoholic womanizer. He slept with many women in his life, and as a consequence, I have two sisters, two half-sisters, and at least three half-brothers that I know about (maybe more). My dad died about five years ago from a cancer that was caused from his excessive drinking and cigarette smoking. Sadly, this is an example of reaping what you sow.

Sometimes we live a sinful life and then experience the consequences for that sin, and we get mad at God and say, “How could you let this happen to me?” But it wasn’t God punishing us for our wrong decisions, but rather leaving us to the just reward of our own choices.

A Harvest of Blessing:

The good news today is that God is a merciful, gracious God. All of us have sinned, rebelled, and disobeyed His commandments, but we can confess our sins to Him and receive His free forgiveness. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he added an action plan for all of us. In light of the fact that there are consequences for our choices, he says, “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” (6:9, NLT).


Clean Troughs

Proverbs 14:4

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.

A long line of tightwads

      I have a disclaimer, everybody:  I come from a long line of tightwads.  When my parents became engaged, a mutual friend quipped that their engagement was an excellent match:  “Jim & Maryanne gettin’ married?  That’s good. They can pinch pennies together.”

In 1982, my parents took me and my two older brothers to visit the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you visited the Fair in mid-July of that year, you probably remember us.  We were the teenage boys carrying wilted cheese sandwiches in satchels dangling from our belts (in 92 degree heat and 98% humidity) to avoid the high cost of fairground fare for lunch.

That is to say, I “get it honest”.

I was 20 years old before I bought my first car, a 1973 Plymouth Scamp for which I paid $850. It came complete with a shredded and flapping vinyl top and fenders so rusted out from the salt on the winter highways of Southwest Virginia that I dared not drive the car through a car wash for fear of leaving too many parts behind.  When driving in the rain, water would pour in under the dashboard, soaking shoes, socks, and pants legs. I’m not exaggerating!

Early in our marriage, I can remember having discussions with my new wife concerning the threshold of excessive toilet paper usage.  (Just use your imagination.)  As I type these words, I examine my current attire:  a striped, button-down, long-sleeve shirt which came to me second hand from America’s Thrift Store, a worn pair of khaki pants purchased on sale in a discount clothing store three years ago for around $20, and socks and underwear that are, let’s just say, of mature age.  Only my shoes are of a brand name which you might possibly recognize, a brand and style I am medically required to purchase to give support to my very flat feet.

So today’s proverb is really for me and for others of the dying breed of folk who are allergic to the spending of money.

Expensive critters

Let’s face it:  Oxen are expensive critters to keep around.  It has been scientifically proven that they have to be fed a certain amount to survive.  Oxen require a ready supply of drinking water.  Oxen need routine preventative and maintenance veterinary care.  They need strong fences to contain them.  They need barns for shelter in severe weather.

Thus if you have no oxen in the stall, the trough is “clean”, or perhaps a better rendering would be, “the granary is empty”.  You don’t have to fill the barn with hay, or purchase corn for the crib, if you have no oxen to feed.  It’s much cheaper to own no oxen.

Wise capital investment

However, seen as a capital investment, oxen can bring the wise farmer great financial reward.  Of course the proverb harkens from a pre-industrial age, but the point is obvious.  Oxen drag the plow to cut the sod so that crops can be sown.  Oxen pull the carts and wagons when bringing in the harvest from the fields, and then they haul the harvest to market.  Indeed, “much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

Investment is risky business.  By its very definition, invested money may be totally lost.  Otherwise healthy-looking oxen drop dead of heart attacks on occasion, I suppose.  But wise, intentional investments create the possibility for wonderful profits.  To interpret the biblical proverb with a proverb from our popular culture, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Two gospel passages

In light of Proverbs 14:4, two New Testament texts come to mind.  The first is the Lord’s parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20).  Without recounting the parable’s details, I conclude that the Lord’s primary point is to emphasize the miraculous increase of the seed that fell on good ground (verses 8 & 20).  When it comes to our stewardship of the gospel, invest heavily!  Throw caution to the wind!  Proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom everywhere, and although three-fourths of the time it won’t amount to much, we can count on an astonishing, miraculous, God-given increase when the seed of God’s Word does hit the “pay dirt”.  There are so many Christian congregations which have the clean troughs of playing it safe in the ministry.  Our proverb would say, “Go big for the gospel of Jesus Christ!”

The second text is found in Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents.  Space does not permit me to retell the passage, but the connection with our proverb is clear enough:  Invest for the master!  Don’t be a scrooge and hide heaven’s riches in a hole in the ground.  Take a chance!  Do something big and bold and risky for the Master!

Father God, make us to be wise and bold investors of all which you have entrusted to us, blessings both temporal and spiritual.  Forgive us when we fail, not for our sake, but for the sake of your own dear Son.  Through Christ our Lord: Amen. 


A Fool and His “Switch”

Proverbs 14:3

“In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.”
“A fool’s talk brings a rod to his back, but the lips of the wise protect them.” – NIV

Pick Your Own

If the typical Child Protective Services agent of today had been around when I was a wee heathen, my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents would have been hauled off to jail. My parents, especially my paternal grandmother, would have wound up on the front page of the newspaper. They would have made the evening news on television. The story would have read something like this…

Click on the picture. I’m sure the company won’t mind me doing a little advertising in return for using their t-shirt pic 😉

APNews. Mary Baker, the half-Cherokee grandmother of sweet little Anthony Baker, was arrested for gross child abuse, today. Mrs. Baker, widow of the late William Baker (saw mill owner; moonshine runner), was found to have left marks on cute little Anthony’s backside and buttocks with a “hickory switch.”

Left-wing, pot-smoking, tree-hugging, liberal, hippie neighbors who somehow snuck into the neighborhood heard little Anthony screaming bloody murder and went to investigate. They reported seeing darling little Anthony bent over his grandmother’s knee as she mercilessly assaulted him with the large tree branch previously growing in the front yard.

According to the angelic little Anthony, his grandmother, upon hearing him backtalk her, told him to exit the house in order to retrieve said “switch.” When he didn’t return with the prescribed tool of abuse, Mrs. Baker sought him out, hewed down her own tree, then preceded to “wear him out.

Yes, when I was a child, you did not talk disrespectfully to your grandmother. If your mouth was bad enough you might even be made to pick your own tool of discipline – and it was wise to pick a big enough switch the first time.

A Fool’s Talk

Whenever I was about to get into serious trouble, my dad used to say, “Son, you’re cruising for a bruising.” Whenever I talked back (disrespectfully) to my parents, I was in danger of seeing stars (without a telescope). Therefore, it did not take long for me to learn how to control my tongue.

According to this proverb, though, a fool is pictured as having a rod (switch, branch, vine) growing out of his mouth. Because of his pride, the fool never learns from the consequences of his words. Every thing he says seems to come back and beat him.

The one who knows how to keep his mouth shut, however, is much more likely to be able to sit down without pain. At least that’s the way it used to be.

A Note for the Shocked

Please don’t misunderstand today’s proverb, nor my attempt at humor. No one here, especially myself, would advocate abusing a child. Corporal punishment should be administered in love, not anger, and only as a last resort.

The problem is that much of our society promotes “the mouth of the foolish.” Remember, “God is not mocked,” so the fool that runs off at the mouth today is still in danger of suffering from his words – one way or another.