May 18

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul…Pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.” (Proverbs 18:6-7; 30:33)

There are times when the cook should stir the pot of soup and times when he shouldn’t. If he foolishly ignores instructions in the fish soup recipe and stirs, he may end up with thick fish mush. I can’t tell you the number of times that I forced myself to eat something that didn’t turn out well because I foolishly tried to cook my meal faster. Fools stir up simmering anger with their mouths, walking into fights. These proverbs verses offer three word-pictures for those who foolishly incite or stimulate anger.

First, though, let’s remember that anger doesn’t start with our lips but with our hearts and attitudes. Some of us are more prone than others to be excitable, and therefore more easily tempted to speak angry words. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention (Proverbs 15:18). “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). If we are diligent in dealing with our problems of envy, resentment, unresolved hurts, and other personal issues, and if we do so with “good sense,” we are less likely to be hot-tempered or angry when new hurts or insults come our way. We work from the inside-out most of the time, dealing with the root of our ungracious speech. However, angry words may be a habit that is hard to break but must be curtailed if we are to glorify God with our speech.

Proverbs 18:6-7 pictures a fool’s lips like a gang member who cares only about getting revenge and walks right into a fight, eyes wide open. The fool is beaten up; those who are foolish with their tongues are those whose souls are in jeopardy. Proverbs 30:33 pictures the cook pressing curds and the patient pressing a sore nose to a person who presses anger, which then produces conflict and fighting. (Some Bible translations use “stirring up” in place of pressing.) Imagine that you have a three-year-old child who knows just what say to irritate you, and how to “push your buttons” to the point of exasperation. Wise adults do not behave like this child but know that angry words result in angry relationships, as pressing produces curds.

An angry Christian woman should manage her ire carefully, so she doesn’t incite others to anger. The fuming man who seeks to glorify God must discover the source of his rage, it’s reasonableness or unreasonableness, and how to best handle it without hurting others. There was a time in my life when I thought it was impossible to stop becoming angry or to stop my angry words when I was aggravated, but that has all changed, all credit to God in answer to prayer. Scripture says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Let me be clear—this verse from Luke refers to salvation. (See Luke 18:18-30.) But if it is possible for God to save a condemned sinner from that eternal punishment by his grace, how much easier is it for him to rescue us from habitual anger?

What makes you angry—rebellious children, people who are late for appointments, traffic, people who misunderstand you, or your own failures? Will you seek to know your triggers and ask the Lord to help you deal with your irrational, impatient reactions to these normal situations in life?

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