Contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
Proverbs 18 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Contrast the Upright and the Wicked
He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.
2 A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.
3 When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes, And with dishonor comes scorn.
4 The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
5 To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.
6 A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth calls for blows.
7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul.
8 The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body. 9 He also who is slack in his work Is brother to him who destroys.
10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.
11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own imagination.
12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, But humility goes before honor.
13 He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.
14 The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it?
15 The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16 A man’s gift makes room for him And brings him before great men.
17 The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.
18 The cast lot puts an end to strife And decides between the mighty ones.
19 A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a citadel. 20 With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; He will be satisfied with the product of his lips. 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. 22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing And obtains favor from the Lord.
23 The poor man utters supplications, But the rich man answers roughly.
24 A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Even for those who disregard much of the Bible, it is hard to argue with the wisdom and simple truths spoken in Proverbs. In today’s text the writer says: A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind. The inability to communicate effectively is one of the greatest weaknesses of our culture today. Perhaps though as the writer says, it has more to do with the willingness to communicate, than the ability. Most people listen only to respond, not to be informed. We need to keep this in mind if we are to be witnesses for Christ, first about ourselves, recognizing that even if our goal is to win other people over to our way of thinking, it is important to first understand what it is they are saying. How can we respond to their actual questions or concerns, if we don’t hear and understand them? Second, knowing this about others, we should acknowledge that in many cases very little of what we say will be heard and understood. On the other hand what we do, the way we live will be clearly seen. That’s why it is critical that we walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Jesus said we should preach the gospel, we should be His witnesses, but He also called us to be light to the world, living righteously and demonstrating love, mercy and grace. Otherwise as the proverb says we are a fool.
The writer also says this about a fool: A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul. If only people would realize that senseless arguing, arguing without understanding only brings strife and resistance. The world promotes a doctrine of tolerance, even though many of those who preach it the loudest are the least tolerant of others. In truth though, tolerance itself is negative and even destructive. We tolerate what we don’t like, even what we despise. Tolerance does not mean acceptance, it is the lowest form of coexistence. Jesus never said we should tolerate others. He says: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45) Tolerating others causes us to remain focused on our differences, and what we despise about others. If we will love others, even though we disagree, we can begin to both understand them and to focus on the things we have in common. Rather than tolerate what we despise, we can begin to embrace the good we see. Tolerance and inclusion does not bring about unity, it brings about strife. Understanding, compassion, grace, mercy and love are what will help us to be unified with others. The writer says: The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body. So too, those who whisper lies and deception penetrate to the inner core of culture and society. We cannot continue to allow the lie of tolerance to wear away at the truth of love.
The writer continues: A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a citadel. With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; He will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. Our culture and society has become a culture of offense. Everyone is offended by something. It is almost as if we have had a constitutional amendment guaranteeing each person’s right to be offended. Once we have held to offense we cannot truly come together. Not only can we not win the debate because there is no understanding, but we also cannot win our brother or sister. Contentions divide. Our culture has become more polarized and divided than at any time in our history. The things we say, the words we speak are like the bars the writer speaks of. Each one farther separates and divides us. Not only do we become divided farther, but as it says: Death and life are in the power of the tongue. This is true of what we speak audibly and what we write as well. In fact, social media has made all of the pitfalls of communication and understanding worse not better. We fire off a clever note without considering how it might be interpreted or understood. We scroll past or delete what we don’t want to see or hear and we share what we agree with. The idea though that there is nothing no consequence to saying something wrong because people can choose whether or not to see or hear it, neglects the truth that once it is said, once it is posted it has the power of life and death. It cannot be unsaid. Our negative words only build more bars of separation. They will cause more division and more offense. They will bring death rather than life.
As believers, followers of Christ, it is not that we should ever compromise what we believe. Again we must rise above tolerance to love. We also need to know that the world may not live by the same rules we are called to live by. We cannot ourselves be offended. We can only stand against the things that offend God, but we need to do it in the way Jesus Himself did, in love. May our prayer today and the way we live be as Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8-11.
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another,
because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of
the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus
Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit. Amen.