Who of you wants to hear “a word that gives pain?” Wouldn’t you rather be gifted with “a gentle answer?” I bet most – if not all – of you prefer “a word” that gives comfort rather than a word that “fans the flame of resentment.”
So, before you open your mouth to speak, think about whether or not what you are going to say is kind or hurtful. And remember your mother’s – or perhaps your grandmother’s advice: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.
A gentle answer is a quarrel averted; a word that gives pain does but fan the flame of resentment.
He that covereth trespass, seeketh friendships; he that rehearseth by an high word (but he who remembereth a wrong), separateth them that (should) be knit together in peace.
Convicting verse, for sure. How do you point out wrongdoing so that it is not repeated without remembering the wrong? Or are you called to deal with the wrong directly with that individual and then cover it so that others will not know and hold that against that person? And perhaps you are asked to not hold a grudge and seek damage of the one who damaged you?
When Christians speak of avoiding sin, this verse — to me — reveals the sin that requires diligent avoidance! Some call this a little sin named “gossip.” God calls it hatred and a twisted desire for conflict between others.
Sometimes when I give advice, I wonder how it will be taken. Will the person listen? Will the person appreciate the counsel? Did I choose the correct time to speak? Was the counsel wanted? In other words, did I have any business giving the advice in the first place?
“There are times when a counsellor has good cause to be proud; nothing better than the right word spoken.”
God’s Word is encouraging. God says there’s “nothing better than the right word spoken.” Still, can I assume I gave good advice and the counsel was welcomed? Did I speak truth in love?
After all, advice without love, counsel without kindness is relatively worthless. The person is less likely to hear the truth and the counsel if love is absent.
“The right word spoken” says God is what is best. Not just any word spoken, but advice or counsel or truth which meets a need perceived. This is speaking the truth in love.
Living in fear is horrible. Living in dread of someone, of his or her power over you, is awful. Fear and dread of another person cripples you and ultimately leads to a fall. And perhaps it isn’t even the other person’s fault. Maybe it’s just you’re focused on the wrong being – your focus is on a person rather than on the Lord.
On the other hand, hope lifts your spirit. Faith in the goodness and power of God, who loves you, strengthens you and leads to a rise.
“He that dreadeth a man, shall fall soon; he that hopeth in the Lord, shall be raised [up]. (He who feareth someone, shall soon fall; but he who hopeth in the Lord, shall be raised up.)”
Fear is impossible to overcome without faith. Ask God to overcome your doubts. He will.
“A soft answer breaketh ire; an hard word raiseth strong vengeance.”
Answer an accusation softly and God says your quiet, humble answer breaks your accuser’s wrath, great anger, and intense resentment. Respond with a harsh word, and expect your response to “raise strong vengeance.” The person is all ready angry at you; your hard word in return adds only fuel to the fire.
I’m sure you’ve seen this work in your own life. A client, perhaps, complains about your performance. Their anger washes over you and makes your defenses rise. You want to defend your actions; the words in your mind are sharp, hard, crisp, angry. You take a deep breath. You speak softly, agreeing with your client. ‘Yes, I could have done that differently. I’ll work on that for you.’
And your client is appeased; their rage dissipates. You avoid adding fuel to the fire and escape “strong vengeance.”
The one who knows the truth; who believes in the Lord — in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — loves mercy. That those who believe in Jesus and His sacrifice also love mercy should come as no surprise. Jesus is the epitome of mercy. The opposite of mercy is evil. “They err that work evil.”
“He that believeth in the Lord, loveth mercy; they err that work evil. Mercy and truth make ready goods (Mercy and truth bring forth good things);”
A lot of wrath rolls off the tongues of those who ought to remember that “mercy and truth bring forth good things.”
“Keep watch over your ability and prudence, do not let them slip from sight; they shall be a charm hung about your neck and an ornament on your breast. Then you will go your way without a care, and your feet will not stumble.”
“Do not spurn the Lord’s correction or take offence at His reproof; for those whom He loves the Lord reproves, and He punishes a favourite son.” (Proverbs 3:11-12) “Can anyone be a son, who is not disciplined by his father? If you escape the discipline in which all sons share, you must be bastards and no true sons. Again, we paid due respect tot he earthly fathers who disciplined us; should we not submit even more readily to our spiritual Father, and so attain life? They disciplined us for this short life according to their lights; but He does so for our true welfare, so that we may share His holiness. Discipline, no doubt, is never pleasant; at the time it seems painful, but in the end it yields for those who have been trained by it the peaceful harvest of an honest life. Come, then, stiffen your drooping arms and shaking knees, and keep your steps from wavering.” (Hebrews 12: 7-12) Remember,”in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:4-5)
“Throw off every encumbrance, every sin to which [you] cling, and run with resolution the race for which [you] are entered, [your] eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom faith depends from start to finish: Jesus who, for the sake of the joy that lay ahead of Him, endured the cross, making light of its disgrace, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of Him who submitted to such opposition from sinners: that will help you not to lose heart and grow faint.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Live an honest life, which results from maintaining your focus on Christ. “Think of Him” at all times; do “not lose heart.” Do not “grow faint.” “Keep your steps from wavering;” “stiffen…[your] shaking knees.”
The thought that anyone would deliberately intend evil is difficult to fathom; and this despite my acceptance of humankind’s fallen nature. God warns that “no man can establish himself by wickedness.” (Proverbs 12:3) Apparently some people believe their evil schemes will work to make their lives better. Instead, “an evil man is brought down by his wickedness.” (Proverbs 14:32) “The wicked [man] is destroyed by [his] own words.” (Proverbs 12:6) Therefore,”those who plot evil delude themselves;” (Proverbs 12:20) for the truth is “the renegade reaps the fruit of his conduct.” (Proverbs 14:14) “The stronghold of the wicked crumbles like clay.” (Proverbs 12:12) In the end, “the wicked man is trapped by his own falsehoods.” (Proverbs 12:13)
“To turn from evil is the highway of the upright; watch your step and save your life.” (Proverbs 16:17)
“Do not,” writes the wise man, “flatter yourself about tomorrow, for you never know what a day will bring forth.” James says, “A word with you, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money.’ Yet you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Your life, what is it? You are no more than a mist, seen for a little while and then dispersing. What you ought to say is: ‘If it be the Lord’s will, we shall live to do this or that.’ But instead you boast and brag, and all such boasting is wrong.” (James 4:13-16)
Jesus tells us, “Set your mind on God’s kingdom and His justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well. So do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow will look after itself. Each day has troubles enough of it own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
God warns us not to brag about our own deeds; those we plan for today or tomorrow. We are not to be arrogant, saying that we will do this or that. We are also not to worry about our futures with anxiety about what might happen or not happen to us. Instead we are to “set [our] minds on God’s kingdom,” recognizing that “it is God who works in [us], inspiring both the will and the deed, for His own good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
“A man may think he is always right, but the Lord fixes a standard for the heart.”
A person justifies his acts to himself. For example, if you are running late to an important meeting and many are waiting on you, is it right to run a red light if there are no cars coming in either direction? Some say, ‘Yes.’ Others say, ‘No.’ Some are just bewildered, knowing they’d consider running the light.
Whatever you decide, you justify your decision to yourself as the correct one. Otherwise, if you are like most people, you won’t do that which you’ve decided is wrong. In order to commit an illegal or immoral act, you must first decide it is ‘not so bad,’ ‘the correct or better thing to do in this situation,’ or ‘okay because everyone else is doing it.’
You see yourself as being in the right.
“But the Lord fixes a standard for the heart,” writes Solomon. Jesus knows that it is what comes out of the heart that defiles a man. And, unfortunately, a person’s heart is deceitful above all things, says Jeremiah.
God’s standard is high; fixed so high we can not attain to it. We must place ourselves under the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ where God’s mercy overshadows us. Here we are justified not by ourselves, but by God Himself. Rejoice! I say again – Rejoice!