Book of Proverbs: 31 verses from 31 chapters in 31 days – A soft answer (15:1)

Day 15: A soft answer (15:1)

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger

Are we feeling challenged and uplifted as we reach the half way point in our journey through Proverbs? We should be as we meditate and one verse after another jumps out of the pages, combining down to earthiness and up in the cloudiness, as profound truth strikes to the core. Today we revisit two key themes: the use of the tongue and fear of the Lord, while doing our customary injustice to a lot else besides that helps us in our journey on the way of wisdom.

There is an all too human propensity to let rip our righteous indignation with a piece of our mind (invariably manifesting itself through the use of our tongue). Solomon shows us a better way: “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire” (The Message). How often might we look back when a few well-chosen words spoken, let us say in a spirit or reconciliation and grace, calmed what could have become a fraught and acrimonious situation and when the converse made things worse. This is not a lecture on how to be meek and mild, for as Solomon tells us elsewhere, there is: “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” Ecclesiastes 3:7, but he lays down an important principle that more often than not, in awkward situations, we do well to adopt. As for the use of the tongue, consider: “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness … A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit … The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so” (15:2,4,7).

Just as with the use of the tongue, there is more profound truth associated with the notion of the fear of the Lord, for example when we are told having little of this world’s goods with the fear of the Lord is better than having a lot without that fear, reminding us of texts as: “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). “Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith” (15:16,17). The remainder of the chapter paints a picture of a wise, righteous, peace loving, thoughtful man, who is ever seeking wisdom, open to reproof and instruction, content with the little he has but confident the Lord hears his prayers, unlike the foolish, proud, greedy, wicked man who does the opposite, whose end is ignominious. The chapter concludes: “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility” (15:33).

Prayer: help us to be content with the little we have and prioritise what matters as we fear you O Lord. Help us to appropriately use our tongues but rather to say the right thing in the right spirit, always seasoned with salt, for your glory.

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