Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Often times King Solomon teaches us God’s wisdom in generalities. He is describing what will happen in most cases. He is not writing specifically to every situation. For example, in Proverbs 6:20 he writes, “My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Here he is referring to the general framework of children having godly parents. He is not specifically talking to every child in every situation. He is not encouraging children in false religions to practice their parent’s idolatry because their dad “commanded” it and their mother “taught” it. The parent’s commands would contradict the commands of the Bible. So the way he assumed you’d understand the proverb is, “keep your parents righteous commands and teachings.”
The same is true with today’s lesson; “gentleness turns away wrath.” This is not a truth that can be applied to everyone at all times, because Jesus was the most gentle person in history and people kept getting more and more angry with Him until their angry turned to wrath (extreme anger) and they conspired to have Him murdered. At the same time, there are people who talk harshly to each other all the time and they don’t become angrier because they have a tolerance for harsh words. However, the context of Solomon’s wisdom is within godly relationships. Like a Christian parent with their children or married couples working through a problem.
Solomon’s wisdom can apply outside of Christian circles too. However, the world doesn’t have the Holy Spirit as their guide, there is nothing stopping them (like the Jews and Romans of Jesus’ day) from getting angrier no matter how gentle you are. Now with a better understanding of the nature of the book of Proverbs, let’s bring today’s lesson to heart.
How do you talk when you’re in a disagreement? Are you always under control and able to answer someone with gentleness or do you, like me, sometimes say the wrong thing? The Bible says in James 3:9-10, “9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” Therefore, we shouldn’t be content to allow both good and evil to come from our mouths. We have been saved and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, God has promised us a way of escape from every temptation in every situation and we have been given the mind of Christ to control our emotions. There is no excuse to not talk like Jesus.
I’ve learned that making excuses for harsh words only prolongs the guilt. But every time I repent, Jesus forgives me and the Holy Spirit is faithful to guide me in gentle speech.
A gentle answer is not always telling people what they want to hear, but it is telling the truth in love. It is talking to people the way you want to be talked to. Our patience and gentleness will be tested, but remember what Paul said in Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” The Lord is coming to judge the world; including Christians. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” As a Christian, you may still go to heaven while be reproved by Jesus for the way you spoke to people.
Watchman Nee said, “The moment we notice our voice has turned harsh, we must stop instantly. If we are reluctant to say to our brethren, ‘I am wrong,’ then our spirit remains engulfed in its sin.’” Let us talk like Jesus and be quick to repent when we don’t.
- Repent of the times you have not spoken to people with gentleness.
- Ask God to guide your words.
- Next time you’re upset with someone, remember to not speak with harsh words, but answer in gentleness.