“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).
Words have power. It is also written, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Prov. 18:21). The familiar song “Angry Words” admonishes all to be careful with the attitude of anger that can be manifested through speech. Life often brings situations that can disturb the peace of a person and cause rash words to come from the tongue. It is the responsibility of all who follow God to be aware and take care of the use of the tongue. James wrote, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). Consider some thoughts about grievous words and what needs to be understood and applied.
Grievous Words Can Hurt. The Hebrew word here translated “grievous” literally means “pain, hurt, toil” (Brown, Driver, Briggs, p. 780). Therefore, one can easily use the phrase “hurtful words” to describe this picture. Anyone who has ever lived long enough to interact with the sinfulness of this world knows how hurtful words can be. Jesus said to his disciples, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20). Jesus was preparing them to face the reality of their coming days. While some will be hurtful, such does not mean that the child of God must respond in like manner. Peter wrote, “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Peter 3:9-11).
Grievous Words Can Help Fuel Anger’s Fire. The Holy Spirit through Solomon made it clear that grievous words “stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1). Anger might very well already be present before the hurtful words come out. Letting someone have a “piece of your mind” often adds “fuel to the fire.” “Brutal honesty” and the like are no excuse to cause more problems. Hurtful words do not help solve problems. Abigail saw what her husband almost did to the entire family (cf. 1 Sam. 25:10-11, 14). Rehoboam launched the beginning of the division of the nation when he “answered the people roughly” (1 Kings 12:13). Choosing the right words with the proper approach takes wisdom and a cool head when situations are difficult.
Grievous Words Can Harm Relationships. It is written in the psalms, “How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!” (Ps. 78:40). What that “stubborn and rebellious generation” (Ps. 78:8) did in grieving God is the same term used with grievous words in Proverbs 15:1. There were some very hurtful things said by them. One example is in the words, “Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” (Ps. 78:19). These questioned the goodness of God over and over even though God was merciful unto them (cf. Ps. 78:38-39). They ultimately stirred up God’s anger to bring judgment upon them (cf. Ps. 78:56-64). Hurtful words truly do harm.
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
This passage reveals a great scene of acceptance and forgiveness. The younger son took the journey “into a far country” (Luke 15:13) which produced a spiritual state of him being “dead” and “lost” (Luke 15:32). This sad account ended with a happy ending upon the young son as he did not stay in such a spiritual condition but by taking the road back home came to be both “alive again” and “found” (Luke 15:32). Would that many who are still away from God would take the road back home. Look at three spiritual traits about that road that are necessary in order for one to have such a spiritual change of greatness in life.
The Road of Awareness. Jesus said of the mind of this broken young man, “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Luke 15:17). There has to be a spiritual awakening inside for one to go back home. His thoughts turned on himself to take introspection of his situation. There was no lying to himself. There was no looking for excuses. There was no putting the blame on someone else. He was personally aware of what he had done to himself by his choices. While sin has its pleasures for a season (cf. Heb. 11:25; Luke 15:13), it also has its hard ways (cf. Prov. 13:15; Luke 15:14-16). One must become aware of how sin works and what sin does to life (cf. James 1:13-16). While reality can be harsh and painful, reality must be objectively faced.
The Road of Affirmation. Jesus said of the heart of this broken young man, where he said to himself, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19). Pride is gone. Denying self is the new normal. Godly sorrow now works repentance unto salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10). There is no sorrow of the world here. There is no talk of “Well, if I have sinned, then . . .” Sin is the problem and confession and forsaking is the plan. Solomon wrote, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). There is no cover up here. He will affirm before heaven and his father that he has sinned.
The Road of Action. Jesus said of the will of this broken young man, “And he arose, and came to his father” (Luke 15:20). It is the power of the will to act that ultimately brought the blessing of acceptance and forgiveness. Many know the way back home and have good intentions to go home but in the end do not act on the intentions. Whether it is pride or fear or bitterness or the like that keeps the feet in “the far country,” the result is still the same: dead and lost. The road back home is one of action. What he affirmed to say to his father, he actually did (cf. Luke 15:21). Grace, therefore, was given to the humble (cf. James 4:6). The road back home is not an easy road to take. If anyone sees himself in a like spiritual situation, let go of the distractions and come home. Your real family and friends are ready to “make merry” (Luke 15:23-24) with you.
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:6-7).
These words of Moses are set against the background of the greatest command (cf. Deut. 6:4-5). What parents do in the development of their children’s lives is so important that God told them the words to teach. The generation who initially heard these words had parents who died in the wilderness (cf. Num. 14:29-35) because of unbelief (cf. Heb. 3:16-19). It was paramount that the next generation both believed and sought to instill basic truths to their children. This is the heart of parenting. Consider three teaching areas needed for parents to pass on.
Teaching Respect for Authority. Knowing the Lord with proper respect is the first step in parenting. Moses stated, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:” (Deut. 6:4). There is no God other than God (cf. Isa. 45:21; 1 Cor. 8:5-6). That same God is the Lord. The term “Lord” necessarily implies authority. Parenting involves both modeling that respect and molding that respect into the hearts of one’s offspring. Life is not lived unto self; it is lived unto the Lord (cf. Rom. 14:7-8). One of the basic problems that has plagued every generation is a lack of respect for authority that falls back on a lack of respect for the Lord. Parents are to instill that all, even the parents, are under the authority of heaven. There is to be no compromise here. It is to be remembered that Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).
Teaching Responsible, Heart Moving Regard for God. The primary motivation for demonstrating respect for authority is in the command to love (cf. Deut. 6:5). Jesus himself stated that (cf. Matt. 22:37-40). Any action of man that is not moved out of love is unprofitable. Paul wrote, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2-3). God initiated His love for man that man might see love and do likewise to the strength of his being (cf. 1 John 4:19). Where the heart of man is in the right frame of mind, completed with love (cf. Col. 3:14), such will take care of the daily course of life.
Teaching the Reality of All Day, Every Day Living for God. Parenting is not a sporadic, put in the “quality time” sort of thing. Moses told them that they were to teach diligently “when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:7). In other words, parents are to be training by word and deed in their children’s presence. Seizing the opportunities to answer their questions, to listen to their conversations, to guide in critical decisions, to discipline when they wander from truth, to rejoice when they do the right thing, etc. There is no break time when it comes to parenting. The responsibility falls not on “the village,” but upon the home.