Don’t show your teeth

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. Proverbs 20:3 (NIV).

Keil and Delitzsch translate Proverbs 20:3 saying, “It is an honour for a man to remain far from strife; but every fool shows his teeth.” That’s well said. It reminds me of an irritable dog that growls and shows its teeth. Sometimes we’re like that. We’re easily irritated and it doesn’t take much before we fly off the handle.

Are you quick to growl, quick to show your teeth, or quick to snap? Some years ago I was in a park with our junior youth group. Having completed our Bike and Blade event, we were sitting chatting when I noticed a father walking along with his daughter in hand. The little girl was six or seven years old. She was obviously tired and couldn’t keep up with her father’s long stride. But the father could care less. He was no doubt in a hurry to get somewhere and was yanking her along in an effort to make her walk faster. Then, without warning, he barked his displeasure and gave her a hefty slap on the back of her head. She immediately burst into tears. It made no impression on the father. In fact he increased his pace, dragging her along for a few meters, before grabbing her around the waist and bundling her into his pick-up truck. It was a graphic display of impatience and irritability. It also reminded me how children are more often in need of an example to follow, than a hand to correct.

God’s Word has much to say about controlling our temper. In Proverbs 16:32 it says, “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” In Proverbs 19:11 it says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” And in Proverbs 29:11 it says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

Yes, we should know the importance of making a strategic exit whenever we find ourselves losing control. And we should know that it’s necessary to submit our emotions to the control of the Holy Spirit.

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