Proverbs 17 Devotional
By Pastor Lawrence
Not all transgressions are alike plain and evident unto men, but strife is a sin that is generally recognized by all of human society. We all have seen it, and we all have participated in it at some point, certainly in our childhood and sometimes as adults as well. As parents, we hate to see children losing their tempers and hitting one another, but it absolutely unnerves and even disgusts us when we see adults acting in such a manner. Of course, not all strife turns into a Jerry Springer show that ends in slaps and blows, but all the quarreling and shouting is just as ugly. To be subjected to such behavior on a regular basis would be inconceivable, hence the author says in v.1 “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” Anyone who has experienced this continual bitterness would rather undergo wave after wave of hunger pains than to face the ongoing chaos and contention of foolish, arrogant people who cannot control their tempers.
The apostle Paul lists “strife” as one of the first evidences that a man is walking in the flesh rather than in the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-20. And in Romans 1:28-29 he mentions ongoing strife as a mark of one whom God has given up to a debased mind. And here in the book of Proverbs, Solomon continues to point out strife as the mark of a fool or a hot-tempered man who gives full vent to his anger. In v.14, he says that “the beginning of strife is like letting out water,” for it is not easily shut off; therefore, “quit before a quarrel breaks out.” It is simply too easy to say and do things that one will later regret if strife isn’t deescalated quickly. In those moments in which no restraint is exercised, the devil is given a power over men to speak through them and to be used as instruments in his hands to hurt one another. It truly is a very dangerous things to give into one’s anger.
But what causes such rage in men? In v.19, Solomon suggests that strife ensues as a result of one’s pride. He says that it is he “who makes his door high” that loves strife and seeks destruction. The gate of his house or of his heart appears to be much bigger and important than that of his neighbor’s, thus he seeks to defend his name, his kingdom and his rights against that of his neighbor’s. Such a one loves transgression, Solomon says, for he seeks to tear down his neighbor’s gate, if you will, in order to build up his own whether through mere words or also through rash actions.
Restraint is what is called for in matters such as these. At times, the individual needs to be physically restrained by one in authority in order to restore peace and order in the home or in society. But the wise man seeks to restrain himself, understanding his own potential to cause irrevocable damage through his own sin and pride. Instead of waiting to be rebuked by others, he quickly rebukes his own soul, asking himself what it is that has caused such anger to buildup in his heart so quickly. The wise man recognizes not only the works of the flesh, but his own fleshly thoughts as well and seeks to put them to death before they bring death to others.
Self-control and spiritual restraint always begin with a true knowledge of the self along with a healthy fear of the Lord. If we don’t recognize the ongoing sin and misery of our own hearts when meditating upon the offenses of others, we are fools indeed. It takes great wisdom to grow in humility and love. It takes great wisdom to pursue purity and peace, and it takes great wisdom to exercise godly restraint in the midst of the crucible. But the Lord continues to test us in these matters not only allowing others at times to offend us, but even ordering such things to fall out that we might learn to die to ourselves and live for Christ.