Friday, December 6, 2013

Proverbs 30:32-33 Cover your mouth, please!

I have frequently said the following to my students: “You have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak.” We get into far less trouble when we just listen! It’s when we open our mouths that we risk saying something foolish, or worse, something hurtful. Our final verses in Proverbs 30 affirm this:

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. (vs. 32-33)

It is always foolish to exalt yourself! If you have to “toot your own horn,” you have issues! I remember once, when I was a new Christian, I had done what I thought was a good deed. The Holy Spirit had very clearly told me to do it in secret. In fact, I knew well the verse from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3)

But I just could not resist making it known in my Bible study group one morning. As soon as I’d revealed what I had done, feeling pretty good about myself, one of the women, not realizing she was the voice of God speaking directly to me, said very matter-of-factly that what I had done could possibly produce more hurt than good. She did not say it to put me down, but the LORD surely used her to put me in my place! I almost laughed out loud! I silently thanked the LORD for that much-needed humbling!

Yes, a hand over the mouth is much better than bragging on yourself! But worse is the mouth that speaks from an evil heart! Better to put duct tape over your mouth than speak from a heart that seeks revenge or plots evil. I recently learned of someone spreading evil about a close friend. My friend and I have not attempted to counter or defend the gossip, but it has been interesting to watch as God does the defending.

. . . pressing anger produces strife.

The word strife so clearly describes the stirring up of emotions and the unsettling effects of speaking from anger. The atmosphere becomes toxic and the tension unbearable, rendering everyone ineffective and unproductive, with hurts piling up. Christ calls us to be peacemakers. So, if we find ourselves in the middle of strife, what should our response be?

Well, because I don’t trust my own emotional reactions, I prefer to let God handle it. We need to allow for a cooling off period, and then we need to pray for the one who has hurt us or who is causing the strife. Let God do His work, because He is so much better at dealing with hearts that need correcting (including our own)! Then, as we are lead, look for opportunities to take positive steps of reconciliation. I don’t think we need to feel warm and fuzzy about someone causing strife. We don’t need to (and probably won’t)make such a person a close friend. But we do need to act out love, which includes forgiveness expressed in a tangible way.

Most people who create strife are miserable. Is there any way we can show Christ to a person who so desperately needs Him, just as we do?  

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