You and Your Temper!

Proverbs 14:17 counsels us, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (ESV).

 This proverb warns of human anger and its results in relation to others, and it does it in a most interesting way. Notice that two men are identified in the verse, along with their distinguishing characteristics, and are then noted in respect to the effect of their actions on those around them.

The first man is short tempered, soon angry. In Proverbs 14:29 this same person is described as one who is of a “hasty spirit.” The idea, obviously, is that of one who is impatient, quick-tempered, or as we say, “has a short fuse.”

This short-tempered man “acts foolishly,” or “works foolishness” as the KJV renders it. “Foolishness” in Proverbs implies moral more than mental deficiency, and in Proverbs 14:29 it is the opposite of “great understanding” which likewise has moral as well as mental connotations. The “fool” in Proverbs is one who both lacks sense and is generally corrupt.

This first man then, by his quick temper, does things that are senseless and morally wrong. The sense seems to be that of explosive, unpremeditated violence. The proverb does not specify the precise reaction of those around him, but their distaste for him is clearly implied (17b). By his actions the wrathful man displays his own folly (14:29) and so is an unfit companion (22:24-25). He’s the kind of person whose company no one desires.

The second man is identified as “a man of wicked imaginations” or “intentions.” This man is one who, rather than being explosively violent, is one whose anger is not so visible. Rather, he quietly plots and schemes. His expressions of anger are more calculated and so more “hateful.” As the saying goes, he doesn’t get mad — he gets even.

So there are two men here, and both have a problem with anger and revenge. Just as the short-tempered man works foolishness by an anger that is quick and uncalculated; so the man of craftiness, although he displays his anger more subtly, is just as vengeful and contemptible. And so anger may show itself by an uncontrolled spirit which is quick to explode, or it may show itself in cunning and deliberate methods of retaliation. But both are reprehensible and despised.

And notice that neither man is very well liked in the community! In fact, they are disliked. People “hate” them, and do not want them to be around. It doesn’t seem to matter much how you vent your anger — in haste and violence, or by scheming revenge. The effect is about the same — no one will want your company.

The proverb, then, warns of two kinds of anger — the violent, explosive anger of a man with a short temper; and the cold, calculated revenge of an otherwise seemingly mild man. Both are foolish, and both are despised.

A man with an easily excited temper is foolish (Prov. 14:17, 29), troublesome (15:18), wicked (21:24, 29:22), and self-destructive (19:19, 25:28).

In contrast to the hot-tempered man is the man with a calm temper, the man who is able to control and even defer his anger (Prov. 19:11). Calmness of temper is a virtue that is both wise (14:29, 19:11) and profitable (15:1, 25:15), and it brings “glory” to a man (19:11) rather than shame and hatred. A calm temper shows a man to be wise (14:29). A quick temper shows a man to be a fool, and that man will be the friend of no one.

Likewise, a man who quietly and carefully devises his method of retaliation is also hated. Indeed, his wrath is more culpable, being due not to weakness but to willingness. Such a man is recognized as evil (Prov. 24:8), is hated by others (14:17) and God (6:18), and will incur condemnation (12:2 14:22). It is true folly.

By contrast, wisdom shows itself in self-restraint (Prov.12:16, 19:11), and such restraint evidences true greatness (16:32).

Both kinds of anger are senseless and moral foolishness, and both kinds are hateful. The wisdom which this proverb enjoins is that which brings a man to quell his wrath and live peaceably with all men.

We further learn from this proverb our need of Christ and his provision of the Holy Spirit whose it is to work in us self control (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

Christianity Is the Only, Not Just the Best, Reasonable Position to Hold

The argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christianity is objectively valid. We should not tone down the validity of this argument to the probability level. The argument may be poorly stated, and may never be adequately stated. But in itself the argument is absolutely sound. Christianity is the only reasonable position to hold. It is not merely as reasonable as other positions, or a bit more reasonable than other positions; it alone is the natural and reasonable position for man to take.

By stating the argument as clearly as we can, we may be the agents of the Spirit in pressing the claims of God upon men. If we drop to the level of the merely probable truthfulness of Christian theism, we, to that extent, lower the claims of God upon men.

Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel (P&R, 1977), 62.

What More Could We Ask?

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27:4).

 There is something deeply refreshing about this verse. Here David reveals the most earnest yearnings of his heart. His supreme desire, he says, “this one thing I ask,” is to be caught up with thoughts of God. He wants above all things to be drawn away from himself and his circumstances and to have his attention riveted on the person of God. Nothing for David was more satisfying than this. His heart knew only one object that could bring fulfillment, and that was God.

There is something here that is reminiscent of Augustine’s famous prayer, “Thou has created us for thyself, and our hearts are restless save as they rest in thee.” This is David’s heart exactly. His chief desire was to go the house of God, there to be reminded of his great Lord, and gaze, as it were, on his majestic beauty.

David is in this respect no different from any Christian. Every Christian’s highest satisfaction comes from an increasing acquaintance with God. The knowledge of God is the promised crowning blessing of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:34), and it is of the very essence of the eternal life we enjoy in Christ (John 17:3). This great glory enjoyed by every Christian — we know God! And we have all found that in our acquaintance with Him we have realized our deepest joy.

I have found this in my own experience, of course, as you have. I have noticed it particularly in the experience of Christians who are suffering or facing difficulty of whatever kind. What they want most at such a time is to be reminded about God — in the words of David, “to gaze upon his beauty.” What we want is to be able to lay hold of some massive truth, something solid and eternal, that will provide a resting place for our mind and heart. And we find it in God alone.

And so, our favorite songs, our favorite sermons, our favorite books, our favorite topics of study and conversation are those that fill and shape our minds with truth about God’s person and work — songs, sermons, and books that bring us to gaze on his beauty, as it were, and adore him just for who and what he is and what he has done.

Anything less than “gazing on the beauty of the Lord” inevitably fails to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. Created in God’s image we are content only with an increased understanding of and acquaintance with him.

Spurgeon on Substitutionary Atonement

If ever there should come a wretched day when all our pulpits shall be full of modern thought, and the old doctrine of a substitutionary sacrifice shall be exploded, then will there remain no word of comfort for the guilty or hope for the despairing. Hushed will be for ever those silver notes which now console the living, and cheer the dying; a dumb spirit will possess this sullen world, and no voice of joy will break the blank silence of despair. The gospel speaks through the propitiation for sin, and if that be denied, it speaketh no more. Those who preach not the atonement exhibit a dumb and dummy gospel; a mouth it hath, but speaketh not; they that make it are like unto their idol…

Would you have me silence the doctrine of the blood of sprinkling? Would anyone of you attempt so horrible a deed? Shall we be censured if we continually proclaim the heaven-sent message of the blood of Jesus? Shall we speak with bated breath because some affected person shudders at the sound of the word ‘blood’? or some ‘cultured’ individual rebels at the old-fashioned thought of sacrifice? Nay, verily, we will sooner have our tongue cut out than cease to speak of the precious blood of Jesus Christ!

[“The Blood of Sprinking (part 1)”, Sermon no. 1888 in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon during the Year 1886; vol. 32 (London: Passmore & Alabaster), pp. 121-132 (p. 129), italics original]

The Goal of Parenting

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.  Prov. 22:15

 Can you remember your childhood well enough to recall how much you needed parents? Of course when we were new-born we needed our parents for absolutely everything. We were utterly dependent. And it was a long time before we were independent in any sense. By the time we were walking our parents had to micro-manage our every moment lest we run over the top of the stairs or eat the ant poison or play with a knife or some such display of childhood folly. Honestly, it was a long time before we were safe!

 For years we were very likely to make decisions that were not at all in our own best interests, and when we did we still wondered why those foolish choices did not make us happy. For most, they grow until they figure out that it is their parents who are stupid – and then are surprised some years later to learn that these same parents have grown up and become smart! And through our teen years and beyond it never occurred to us that our parents really were more concerned for our happiness and well-being than we were. And it certainly never entered our mind that we need them to give us direction.

 All this simply because “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.”

 And most foolish of all, we were likely to think that we could be happy and find ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction apart from God. We were likely to think that temporal pleasures outweigh the eternal.

 Proverbs has much to say about the fool and foolishness. One of the most telling descriptions is found in Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” A right orientation to God is basic to all knowledge and wisdom, but fools despise wisdom. Question: Why would someone hate wisdom? The obvious answer: because he’s a fool. And foolishness in Proverbs has these two dimensions – it is both morally wrong and personally destructive. “Foolishness” is that which is wrong, and it is not in our own best interests.

 Foolishness, at bottom, is an inward bias to evil. It is a (foolish) commitment to find pleasure apart from God. It is a stupid, self-destructive pursuit of sin and a pursuit of happiness without God.

 And the sobering thing is that this foolishness is bound in the heart of your precious children. Theologians call it “original sin,” and you see it every day. Though you adore them, your children are likely to think that you stand between them and happiness. They are likely to think that all this religion stuff is an obstacle to freedom. And they are willing even to put their relationship with you on the rocks in order to pursue what they firmly believe is better for them. They will ruin their own happiness, both temporal and eternal, because they think they know best how to find real pleasure. You know better, and you plead accordingly, until finally you realize the truth of original sin. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.”

 It’s a horrible realization, but every parent has seen it, and every child has lived it. And if we would be successful parents, we must come to grips with it. Foolishness reigns in the natural heart.

 And so it is the responsibility and the goal of parenting prayerfully to teach, train, instruct, admonish, and discipline our children, and by every possible means steer them away from inbred folly. The goal is to stand between them and their own self-destruction.

 The goal is not merely to get them successfully to age 22 without a record with the police or history of drugs or pregnant. The goal is to see them come by God’s grace to bow the knee to the Lord Jesus, and to rest safely in him who alone gives true and lasting joy.

We understand that at the end of the day only God can do this. But precisely because he is the one who saves, we give ourselves to apply every means that he has appointed to that end, praying all the while that he would be merciful and spare our children from the folly that lies in the heart of every one us.

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