“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” Proverbs 15:1 - 5 (ESV)
Have you ever been around someone who can take the stress out of a room? Some people have a gift of de-escalation. They can walk into a situation, read the room, bring a sense of peace and offer solutions. We may not all be counselors or psychologists, but we can all bring calm to most situations just by the way we use our tongue. A soft answer can bring about peace. I don't know about you, but I could use some peace in my life.
Solomon once again gives us two options; just like light and darkness, wisdom and folly, we have a choice between a soft answer and harsh words. We can build up or tear down, and God is watching. That thought may scare you, but I hope when you read it in the context of these verses (and what we know about God through the Bible) it will bring a sense of comfort. If God sees what we do, it means that we do not have to fight for everyone else to see us. We can give soft answers and walk away from quarrels while trusting that God sees the good that we do. We will not always be praised for acting in wisdom. In fact, mockers and scoffers may even hate you for walking in wisdom. But take heart - God sees you. He is watching and His eyes do not miss your faithfulness.
“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish man despises his mother. Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.” Proverbs 15:16 - 21 (ESV)
We live in a world of excess. We pride ourselves on how much of something we can buy (have you ever been to Costco?) and we won't rest until we make sure that we can get two-day shipping on those Amazon purchases. There is nothing wrong with two-day shipping (I love using Amazon), but it is worth remembering that what we have should not define who we are. It's better to have less and peace than to have a great deal of treasure and no peace. The rapper Notorious B.I.G. was right when he said, "the more money we come across, the more problems we see." Don't let your treasures bring your trouble.
Humility before Honor
“Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 15:32 - 33 (ESV)
Honor is not easily earned; it can take years to earn and the process might be painful. Being humbled is difficult; no one really likes to be humbled. However, humility is the path to honor. The ability to recognize when you are wrong, make a change, and continue on the path of righteousness is something that does not come naturally. We can spend our lives working to gain honor, we can lose it in a single act of ignorance. Just turn on the television or open your phone and you will see someone who has fallen out of favor because of some foolish or arrogant action. Solomon reminds us that when we listen to reproof, we gain intelligence. Fear the Lord and walk in humility. Honor may be the result, but it's not the first step.
Reflect and Respond
Do you speak with harsh words or use a gentle tongue? Would those around you say you are hot-tempered or a person of understanding? Are you ignoring instruction or do you seek wisdom? Ask the Lord to reveal how your words and actions affect others. If necessary, make a change.