Now I want us to explore what the book of Proverbs has to teach us about peace and anger. You mentioned the other night how much you enjoy the book of James; if you enjoy James you’ll enjoy Proverbs, for not only is James replete with practical instruction as is Proverbs, but we’ll find an emphasis in Proverbs on the tongue and anger and peace just as we do in James.
I’m going to start our reflections in Proverbs Chapter Ten and see where our journey takes us – let’s walk among these chapters and reflect on them, just as we would walk among the trees in a forest and note their shapes and characteristics.
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…” (10:11a).
“Where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed many…” (10:19 – 21a).
As we read this counsel, are we reminded of James Chapter Three?
There is a connection between the heart and the words we speak, a connection that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 12:33 – 37: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless (useless, wasted) word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Again, are we reminded of James Chapter Three when hearing these words of Jesus?
Not everything that grows in our vegetable garden at home are things that we planted; we are constantly removing weeds from our garden. Not everything that grows in our hearts are things which the Lord Jesus planted, there are weeds to be pulled daily, weeds which our enemy and the world attempt to plant in our lives. If we allow weeds to grow into fruit-bearing plants, the fruit they bear will poison our hearts and consequently our speech, with the result that rather than our words being a fountain of life to the people around us, they become the bitter water of which James writes and the evil that Jesus speaks of. When we consider that we are the sons and daughters of the living God, speech that is the result of poison fruit is particularly egregious – because we are not living and speaking as who we are in Christ, but rather like people who do not live in Him.
What does the writer mean by, “Where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise”? When we talk without thinking, without considering whether our words will bring edification and understanding to those around us, we will sin against others and against God by putting ourselves at the center of the universe – we will speak to satisfy ourselves; it can be to satisfy our anger, our pride, to control others, to release tension and stress; but whatever the reason, when we fail to submit our hearts and speech to our Lord Jesus and instead engage in a torrential flow of words, we cannot help but at some point to transgress because we make ourselves the reference point for all that we say…we place ourselves on the throne.
“The lips of the righteous feed many…” Jesus says that the words He speaks are spirit and life (John 6:63). Since Jesus says, “Even as the Father sent me, so send I you,” our words should also be life and spirit. As Jesus feeds us with His words, we are to feed others with the words we speak as we live in intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
While this has always been a challenge to mankind, it is a particular challenge in this age of instant communication. In the midst of communication bombardment it is all too easy to allow fast-growing weeds to feed our speech and our writing – our minds cannot easily process the volume of communication that many of us experience, we cannot adequately reflect on what we hear and read; the result is that we send a constant flow of verbal and written communication to others that is often not thought out – its source is not considered, we feed others the fruit of poisonous weeds rather than the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). The popularity of “rants” is just one indicator that our speech and thinking has regressed to the infant stage.
How many people will our lips feed today? What will we feed them? Will it be anger? Will it be peace?
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”