Sunday, June 09, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Fighting Words"

"Fighting Words”
The Tongue of the Wise - Spring 2013
June 9, 2013 :: Proverbs 15:18

This is our last official message in our Spring series on “The Tongue of the Wise.” Next week will probably tie back into this series in some ways, but this is the last full message in the “Tongue of the Wise” sermon series.

And we’ve been learning with Proverbs 12:18 that “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

And I want to thank those of you who told me over the last week that this series of messages has been helpful to you this Spring.

I know that it’s been helpful to me to think about what I am doing with me and my big mouth.

Am I speaking reckless words? Complaining, Cursing, Grumbling, Coarse Joking, Lying, Foolish Talking–reckless words that pierce like a sword.

Or am I exhibiting the tongue of the wise? Sweet words, pleasant words, praising the praiseworthy, commending the commendable, good words that heal, not hurt.

And of course, we learned that these words (reckless or wise) don’t come from nowhere–our words overflow from our hearts.

So the question is not just what am I saying, what words are on my tongue?  The question is what is the state of my heart?  Am I going in a Godward direction or the wrong direction?

And today’s message will be along the same lines.

Today, I want to talk about “Fighting Words.”

Words that tear down and break-up.

Words filled with unrighteous anger that fuel sinful conflict.

Fighting words.

Remember this guy?

Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam were always squaring off in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. And Bugs knew how to get Sam really really really mad.

Of course, that wasn’t hard to do.

Sam was born mad, I think.

But anything that Bugs could do to bother Sam, he would until Sam would have smoke pouring out of his ears, and he’d say, “Them’s fightin’ words!”

And then the fun would begin.

And we would laugh and laugh because...it was not us.

But fighting words in real life are not so fun.

Sinful anger expressed in words that tear down brings destruction in its wake.

Here’s our proverbs for today.  Proverbs 15:18.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

Class of 2013, let me give you some counsel for surviving and thriving in the world that you just graduated into this weekend.

Mikalah, Michelle, JP, Lucas, Emigh, let me give you some counsel:

Keep your cool.
Don’t let yourself get carried away with anger.
Be a patient person who calms a quarrel.

Don’t be a hot-tempered individual.

Proverbs 15:18, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

Solomon put those words in his book nearly 3000 years ago but they are just as true today as they were then. And just as applicable.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

Most proverbs make use of Hebrew poetry with parallelism between the A-Line and the B-Line. This one is no different.

The A-Line of Proverbs 15:18 is our first point today.

A. A HOT-TEMPERED MAN STIRS UP DISSENSION.

A “hot-tempered man” is a man who allows his anger to flare up and get the best of him.

He is someone who is characterized by being a “hot-head.”

We say its someone with a hair-trigger or a short fuse, right?

The proverbs have a lot to say about the hot-tempered man.

This verse, Proverbs 15:18 says “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

Proverbs 19:19 says, “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” Lesson?  Don’t bail this guy out of trouble. He’s got to learn from the consequences or he’ll just flame off again.

Proverbs 22:24 says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”

Lesson?  Be careful making friends with someone who can’t control their temper or soon, you will be fighting as well. Either them or others.

Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up dissension [sounds like our verse], and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.”

I saved this message for last because I think that losing our tempers and then speaking is one of the most harmful and sinful kinds of talking.

Fighting words.

Using words to fight with others.

What kinds of words might fall into that category?

Shouting would, of course.  Yelling in someone’s face in anger.

“I hate you!” Is one of the most destructive things a person can say.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension.”

But sinful shouting is not the only form of fighting words.

How about name-calling and insults?

How many of us like to be called a bad name?

Nobody likes that. Not if they’re being human.

Nobody likes to be insulted.

Sometimes the name isn’t so bad, it’s just the heart behind the name calling. It’s a hear that says, “I’m so mad at you that I won’t be happy unless you have this word smeared on you.”

I see a lot of name-calling among my several friends on Facebook.

And it seems like people think it’s okay to do that if you’re calling someone a name when they aren’t listening.  (Of course, the NSA might be listening, but that’s a whole other story.)

Sarcastically insulting others when they are not present is not a form of love. It is being a hot-tempered man.

A hot-tempered man posts things online that they will soon regret.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension.”

Speaking of sarcasm. I read a great post recently that calls sinful sarcasm, “lighthearted hatred.”  I think that’s really helpful.

There is a difference between loving playfulness and sinful sarcasm.

It’s okay to rag on your friend and trash-talk during a game of basketball in your driveway.  It’s okay to poke fun at one another in love.

Tom Hampton has told me many times that if he’s making fun of me, then I know that everything’s okay between the two of us.  Because he likes to pull the chain on his friends.  So, I know I’m good with Tom if he’s giving me a hard time.  And vice-versa.

That’s fun and that’s cool.

But when our sarcastic mouths begin to tear others down for our own enjoyment out of a heart that is angry or mad or frustrated, then we’ve crossed that yellow line in the middle of the road and are going to have start dodging traffic coming in the other direction.

I’ve told you this story before, but it’s been a while.  When I was in High School, there was another student in my class that I’ll call “Jack.”

And Jack liked to pick on me.

I was something of a geek, and he was a star football player.

And during my senior year, I began to pick back at him and deliver some sarcastic words right back into his face.

I’m not saying they made any sense.

One time in government class, I said “Jack, duuuuh, football.”

And another time I said, “Jack, get a life, and if you can’t find one, I’ve got extra lives hanging my closet that I can loan you.”

Yeah, I don’t know what that was supposed to mean, either.

But I know what kind of a heart it came from. A hateful one. A hard one. A hot-tempered one.

I was stirring up dissension.

Why do I remember this so vividly?  Jack died a year or two after high school.  He wasn’t much older than our graduates today and he was in the military and had an accident and died.

And whenever I think of him, I think of the hot-tempered things I said to him and about him and how I never showed him the love of Christ.

And now it’s too late.

How I wish I had known and obeyed 1 Peter 3:9, where Peter tells us believers, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

But “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension.”

The Lord Jesus had very strong words to those who used strong words against others in hate.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, our Lord said, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, 'is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Yes, you heard me right.

Jesus said that anyone who says “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.

How many of us have said, “That man is an idiot” in the last twelve months.

The Greek word Jesus uses for “fool” is “moros” from which we get our name “Moron.”

How many of us have said that the folks in Harrisburg or Washington are morons?

Or our bosses?  Or our employees?  Or that person that we are locked into conflict with?

Jesus says that that is murdering them in your heart and murdering them with your words.

It’s the same heart of anger that left unchecked will kill.

And it’s libel for judgment.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension.”

How about “accusing words?” Let’s add accusations to the list of fighting words.

An accusation is a charge brought against someone. Sometimes, they are necessary.

In fact, sometimes angry words are righteous words. Our Lord Jesus got angry righteously and expressed His righteous anger, His righteous indignation.

But we have to admit that most of our anger is not righteous anger.

It’s selfish anger.

And sinful accusations are those made before we know all of the facts, those that are made in spite of the facts, those accusations that are made out of anger and not out of love.

And Satan loves accusations.

He loves to bring a charge against people, especially Christians.

Accusations are Satan’s second language. His native language is lying but the Bible also calls him the Accuser of the Brothers.

And he loves to put them together and make them lying accusations.

So, whenever we find ourselves making wild and unloving and out of control accusations, we are speaking the snake’s tongue.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword.”

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension.”

“Them’s fighting words!”

Sometimes, our fighting words are just simply unfair criticisms.

Criticism can be very good if it’s loving. But unfair criticism just tears people down.

Are you stuck in your relationships right now because they are filled with criticism?

Proverbs 18:6&7 says, “A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension.”

The great thing about Proverbs is that the answer to the problem is almost always right there in the same verse. In this verse, it’s in the B-line.

B. A PATIENT MAN CALMS A QUARREL.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

The King James says it like this, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.”

The New Living Translation renders verse 18, “A hothead starts fights; a cool-tempered person tries to stop them.”

Mikalah, Michelle, JP, Lucas, Emigh, let me give you some counsel.

Keep your cool.
Don’t let yourself get carried away with anger.
Be a patient person who calms a quarrel.

Don’t use fighting words.

One of the scariest things about hot-tempered people is that they often don’t realize that they are hot-tempered.

They feel justified. Anger feels justified. Because anger is always about seeing or feeling that something is wrong.  And often there is something wrong but the anger is about the wrong thing or to the wrong degree or aimed at the wrong person.

What’s interesting is that often a patient man doesn’t realize that he is a patient man.

A patient man often realizes how angry they truly are, but they are able to keep it under control and to transform the power of anger into something good.

A patient man says, “No” to insults and name calling and accusations, and sinful sarcasm and unfair criticism, and shouting and every other kind of fighting words.

But they also do more than that. They use words that are not fighting words.

They use soothing words.
They use careful words.
They use cautious words.
They use judicious words.
They use discreet words.
They use measured words.
They use gentle words.

Verse 1 of chapter 15 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath....”

“A patient man calms a quarrel.”

James chapter 1 says, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

If we find ourselves becoming angry, we need to not give into it, but to repent of it and instead to embrace the opposite. To choose love.

A patient person is not someone who never feels anger.

It’s someone who says NO to anger and yes to love.

Love is patient.

Which of these two things are harder to do and be?

Hot-tempered or patient?

It’s patient, isn’t it? So, which one do you think God is the most interested in helping you to be?

One of the best practical ways to grow in patience is to meditate on how patient God has been with you.

When I think about how patient God has been with me, I just naturally begin to be patient with others.

Not that it’s easy, but it’s easier.

And it’s also helpful to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective.

Try to put yourself in their shoes.

In fact, instead of making an accusation, ask questions to try to figure out why they are doing something that is so maddening to you.

If you are in a close relationship, I recommend not just asking them to explain where they are coming from but repeating back to them what you’ve heard them say and including the emotion that you think they are saying.

Heather and I teach this technique in our pre-marital counseling classes, and it’s made a huge difference in our own marriage.

Heather and I regularly get into fights. We are not the same person, so we see things differently.

I see things my way, and she sees things the right way.  Right, honey?

And as we’ve grown older, we grown in our ability to listen to each other patiently.

Now, it’s grown harder in some ways to be patient with each other.

During Family Bible Week, Heather and I are going to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary.  She’s a saint. 19 years of putting up with me.

And after 19 years, it’s easier in some ways to get angry because you might think that the other person would have changed more in that 19 years and might agree with you more after 19 years. You’ve been patient for 19 years, so you think that you shouldn’t have to be so patient after 19 years.

Does that make sense?

Now, it’s also easier to be patient because you know that person very well and you’ve learned to be patient with them in just the right way.

But it’s not automatic.

We have to work at listening to each other and making sure that we understand each other, including how the person feels.

Another good technique for calming a quarrel is XYZ statements.

Heather and I teach this one, too, in our pre-marital counseling classes.

XYZ statements are this:

“When you do X, in Y situations, I feel Z.”

Do you see how that is better than saying, “You always do this!”  Or “You never do this.”

Those are accusations and there is very little good that can come from them.

(And just “venting” isn’t good!)

But in an XYZ statement, you are letting the person know how you are feeling but you are not making an accusation, you are helping them to understand your and their own actions better.

Does that make sense?

“When you leave me at a party by myself, I feel abandoned and unloved.”
“When you forget to take out the trash on Wednesdays, I feel forgotten.”
“When you spend more than we agreed upon, I feel insecure and confused.”

Do you see how that could diffuse a quarrel instead of flaming it up?

I’m sure that there are hundreds of practical ways to grow in this.

The point is to do it.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

A patient man is not a passive man.

He is active. He is actively calming the quarrel.

It takes guts to be self-controlled and to resolve conflicts instead of making them.

We laugh at Yosemite Sam and his hot-head.

But wouldn’t want to be around him if those guns were real.

And we don’t want to be him either.

We want to be like Jesus who showed us amazing patience when He saved us from our sins.

Paul says to Timothy,  “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Tim 1:15-16)

Jesus did let His temper get the best of Him and explode on us with unrighteous fighting words.

He exhibited awesome, unlimited patience and came into the world to save those of us who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.

And with an example like that, we can become, not hot-tempered, but patient people who calm quarrels in Christ-like love.

***

Messages in this Series:

1. The Fearsome Tongue
2. Sweet Words
3. Grumbling (Part One)
4. Grumbling (Part Two)
5. Praising Mom
6. Bad Words
7. Good Words
8. A Lying Tongue
9. Fighting Words

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