Put Your Hand on Your Mouth

Reading the Word

Proverbs 30:32–33 (ESV)
32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.
33 For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We need to be wise in our actions and consider their consequences. It is foolish to exalt ourselves rather than act in humility towards others. It is also wrong for us to “devise evil” or scheme evil plans in our actions. We often do these without even thinking about them as we say and do things that we know will hurt others or get back at them for hurting us. We often justify our actions by assuring ourselves that we know better than others and that the outcome we are seeking is the correct one. Therefore, any means to obtain it is good.

The second line warns us that actions have consequences. We are given three examples of this truth each using the word “pressing.” The first speaks of pressing milk, which is a picture of churning. The second speaks of pressing the nose,which produces blood. This pictures a fight in which someone strikes another person on the nose and gives them a bloody nose. And the last speaks of pressing anger and producing strife. This last picture is of one who stirs up the anger of another until there is a response of conflict.

Learning to walk wisely involves learning to “put your hand on your mouth.” We need to learn when to keep quiet. To scheme evil through our words and actions, or use them to stir up conflict, is the way of the fool. Of course, the fool does not mind the conflict and may even enjoy it, but the wise understands that such is not to be desired. Even the New Testament warns the church against those who like to stir up division, calling such people “warped and sinful” (cf. Titus 3:10). Let’s learn to walk in wisdom and humility, not looking for conflict and strife.


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Is the Argument Worth It?

Reading the Word

If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.(Proverbs 29:9, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

The imagery of this proverb is the courtroom. The Hebrew word translated “argument” is one that speaks of a legal argument that is laid out with logic and reason before others. Even with all of the evidence and reasoning, the fool only rages and laughs. There is no quiet because the fool is not interested in reasoning, only foolishness.

There are better things to do than argue with others who are already convinced and are not willing to reconsider. Some people are not interested in reason or understanding. They have their mind made up no matter what anyone else may say. The fool only desires to speak, not listen, so he rages on. The next time you are tempted to argue over a topic, ask yourself if there is any chance of it changing the other person’s mind. If not, it may be better to walk away.


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The Rebuke of a Friend

Reading the Word

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.(Proverbs 27:5, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

How is rebuke better than hidden love? They both seem like bad things, but I would much rather not be rebuked. This proverb becomes clearer when we realize that it speaks of the rebuke of someone who is our friend. We often do not think of it this way, but real love wants what is best for the other person and sometimes that means confronting wrongs and seeking to correct them. This is the meaning of rebuke. It is a good thing when our friends love us enough to confront us when we need it. It is much better than hidden love that ignores us and our failures and allows us to continue in our destructive ways.

The next time someone close to you wants to talk about something going on in your life because they think you have gotten off-track, instead of becoming angry and defensive, remember that they love you and want what is best for you. Consider their words. They just might see something that you have failed to see.


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How to End a Quarrel

Reading the Word

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.(Proverbs 26:20, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of conflict is that it can be difficult to bring it to an end. Why is that? When we are hurt by someone else, it is natural for us to want to get even. We want to somehow inflict pain on the other person or gather others to our side so we feel justified in whatever took place. In most cases, we continue to engage in our quarrel by talking about the other person or the incident(s). As we talk to others, attitudes and actions are fed and the conflict continues.

Proverbs 26:20 reminds us that if we stop feeding a fire, it will go out. The same is true of quarreling. If we stop adding to the conflict, it will often fade away. We can do this by choosing not to talk poorly about the other person and by being careful with our actions. Conflict is difficult, but we only make it more difficult when we continue to engage in it. We need to learn to stop adding fuel to the fire.


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I Am Only Joking!

Reading the Word

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!‘” (Proverbs 26:18–19, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s passage deals with causing quarrels with others. When we say inflammatory things or deceitful things to someone, we can expect a strong reaction. It is no good to say “Just kidding!” afterwards, as doing so will likely only infuriate the other person even more. It is like throwing firebrands or “arrows and death” (i.e. deadly arrows). It is throwing gasoline on an open flame. We should expect a large and out of control fire.

It is never good to go looking for a fight. As Christians, we should do all we can to live at peace with others, even those we disagree with. We do not have to hide who we are, but neither do we need to look for opportunities to poke and prod. We need to live wisely and it is the madman who causes quarrels.


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The Power of the Tongue

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Be sure to subscribe to this page to follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Proverbs 18:20–21 (ESV)
20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

The Wise Seek Peace

James 318 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

James 3:13–18 (ESV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Divisiveness in the Church, among God’s people, is never good. James calls it “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Titus 3:10 tells us to warn the divisive person and then have nothing more to do with him. It is a serious issue and can render a church ineffective in ministry and cause harm to the name of our Savior. By contrast, the wise and understanding are meek, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. This is what the body of Christ is called to be.

Much of the fighting that takes place in churches is over minor things that we should be able to find room to disagree on. Yes, we should stand against false teaching and unrepentant sin, but we must not make every small thing into a big thing. Beware the person who thinks everything is of equal importance and is ready to go to war to defend every fine detail. The fighting will never cease because you will never have full agreement in every matter. And the fighting will soon consume you.

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Avoid Irreverant Babble

argue

Reading the Word

2 Timothy 2:14–19 (ESV)

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

One of the greatest challenges of the Christian life and in the life of the local church is to avoid fighting over things that are meaningless. It causes great harm to personal relationships and can destroy the unity and witness of a church in the community. No one wants to be a part of a church that is tearing itself apart from the inside out. This is why Paul tells Timothy to charge the church to not “quarrel about words” and to “avoid irreverent babble.” Paul was not saying that there is never a time to take a stand. He had no problem correcting Peter (cf. Galatians 2:11). Paul was telling Timothy that some things are not worth it.

Have you ever experienced this in your own life or church? I have heard many pastors and church leaders say that the things that cause the most division in their churches are the little things, not the central doctrines of the Christian faith that must be defended. Would you agree? What types of things should be thought of as “minor”? What are the major things?

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