There's a lot of talk about civility these days, with concerns over our divided and tattered social and political dialogue reaching a fever pitch. The quest to be "right" and to win the argument has led too many of us to look past our ideological opponents' humanity — and it must stop.
Proverbs 13, much like previous chapters, addresses the importance of self-control and, more specifically, of watching what comes out of our mouths. The chapter opens with a powerful theme that continues from Chapter 12: "the fruit" of our lips.
Verses 2-3 (NIV) should be simultaneously convicting and thought-provoking for us all:
"From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence. Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin."
Somehow, politics and echo-chambers have taken the place of goodness and the quest to pursue, fulfill and progress what is right. Kindness has been thrown out the window in exchange for brashness — and it's a problem on all sides of the political aisle.
Solomon tells us in Proverbs 13:17 that a wise person seeks to bring healing: "A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing."
So, which are we? The wicked messenger or the trustworthy envoy? Unfortunately, too many of us are prone to be the latter, while ignoring our call to be the former. Some of us even relish in it, but amid an era of dysfunctional politics, we have to watch ourselves more than ever.
Righteousness, as Proverbs 13:6 proclaims, "guards the person of integrity." Unfortunately, this same verse tells us that "wickedness overthrows the sinner." We need discernment in an era in which discernment and self-control are increasingly treated like disfavored relics of days past.
In the end, Solomon's advice is sound. Social chaos is, in many ways, rooted in human pride. And, "where there is strife, there is pride" (Proverbs 13:10).
To help stem the tide of chaos, we can ask ourselves some key questions:
- What are we contributing to the chaos?
- Are we part of the solution?
- Are we associating with people of good intent?
- Rather than respond harshly, are we thinking through the end results of our comments?
In the end, we're called to embrace the gospel, not a political party or ideology. And who we associate with — and what we tolerate as "normal" — matters. I'll leave you with Proverbs 13:20: "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm."
Be sure to also check out my quick devotions and reflections on Proverbs 1, Proverbs 2, Proverbs 3, Proverbs 4, Proverbs 5, Proverbs 6, Proverbs 7, Proverbs 8, Proverbs 9, Proverbs 10, Proverbs 11 and Proverbs 12. And...curious about what all this means? Looking to better understand who God is? Take the next step.
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