I’ve been reading in Proverbs this week, which is typically an exercise in humility. This time through it, I was struck by several verses that describe our need to carefully guard our heart and our speech. The easiest and most natural thing for most of us to do, of course, is vent our frustration and anger. Easy, natural… and wrong. Here are a few of the verses that I read that address that sinful tendency we have:
15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
15:4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
15:23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!
15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
16:21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
16:23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
16:32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
17:9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
17:14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
17:27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
As I compiled that list, it seemed that the common thread running through those verses could be summarized from a couple of the later verses. I need to rule my spirit (16:23) and restrain my words (17:27), which is to say I need to exercise self-control in my emotions and speech. That’s nothing new, but since I don’t always do a very good job of either, I certainly needed the reminder. The Bible has a lot more to say about self-control, but that’s it for this post. I need to spend some time digesting this.
One final thought
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), a product of Christ’s work in me. My quest for self-control can ultimately only find its completion in Christ. Which means I need the gospel now just as much as I did the first moment I trusted Christ.